PAOLO Di Canio’s first game in charge of Sunderland culminated in defeat after they were struck down by a quick-fire second half double at Chelsea.
Cesar Azpilicueta’s own goal on the stroke of half-time put Sunderland on course for what would have been a dream start to the Di Canio regime after an impressive first 45 minutes from the visitors.
But just 65 seconds after the break, the Black Cats fell behind to Matt Kilgallon’s own goal.
It got worse for Sunderland 10 minutes later when Branislav Ivanovic fortuitously deflected the ball into the Black Cats net and there was no way back for Di Canio’s side.
There was another blow for Sunderland after a 10th yellow card of the season for Craig Gardner, who will now miss the Tyne-Wear derby, plus the Stadium of Light encounter against Everton.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Di Canio sprung a shock with his team selection after handing starts to Connor Wickham and Matt Kilgallon.
Centre-half Kilgallon started a Premier League game for the first time since January’s defeat at Liverpool and replaced the injured Titus Bramble, while it was only a second appearance of the season in the XI for Wickham.
The 19-year-old took Danny Graham’s place up front - with the £5million January signing struggling with a couple of knocks during the week - and there was also a recall for Seb Larsson, who replaced the dropped James McClean.
Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez left out senior trio John Terry, Frank Lampard and Fernando Torres, with ex-Newcastle striker Demba Ba recalled after he was cup-tied for the mid-week Europa League quarter final.
Sunderland had a chance inside the opening three minutes after the ball looped over Branislav Ivanovic to Stephane Sessegnon, on the far right of the six-yard box.
It was an acute angle for Sessegnon, but he blasted his shot harmlessly into the side netting.
Sunderland had another chance on the counter-attack in the 18th minute, stemming from a magnificent block by Kilgallon on Ba.
Sessegnon skipped down the left and squared to Johnson on the right-hand side of the area.
Johnson attempted to curl a left-footed shot into the far corner, but it was blocked behind by the face of David Luiz.
Chelsea were struggling to create any clear-cut opportunities, Eden Hazard heading straight at Simon Mignolet two minutes before the interval from eight yards after being picked out by Oscar’s left wing cross.
And perhaps deservedly on the stroke of half-time, it was Sunderland who broke the deadlock.
Johnson’s corner from the right was flicked on at the near post by John O’Shea and turned into his own net six yards out by Cesar Azpilicueta.
HALF-TIME Chelsea 0 Sunderland 1
It took Chelsea just 65 seconds of the second half to draw level after half-time substitute Fernando Torres exposed Sunderland on the break.
Torres skinned Danny Rose on the left-hand touchline and then switched the ball to Oscar on the opposite side of the box.
Oscar’s shot was blocked by the outstretched legs of Mignolet, but then deflected off the heels of the unfortunate Kilgallon into the corner.
Kilgallon almost managed a second own goal in the 54th minute when he deflected Azpilicueta’s shot from 25 yards just over the bar.
But the respite lasted a matter of seconds.
From the resulting corner, Wickham headed clear as far as Luiz 25 yards out and the Brazilian’s low half-volley deflected off the heel of Branislav Ivanovic beyond Mignolet into the bottom corner.
Oscar fired a shot into the side netting in the 61st minute after Mata’s right-wing corner came all the way through to him on the far side of the area.
Torres headed over the top from 12 yards in the 66th minute after being picked out by Oscar’s wedged cross.
Four minutes later, Johnson intercepted Jon-Obi Mikel’s pass before bombing to the edge of the area and curling a left-footed shot two yards wide of the far post.
FULL-TIME Chelsea 2 Sunderland 1
CHELSEA: Cech, Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Luiz, Bertrand, Ramires, Mikel, Oscar, Mata (Lampard 89), Hazard (Benayoun 85), Ba (Torres 46). Subs not used: Turnbull, Ferreira, Marin, Terry.
SUNDERLAND: Mignolet, Bardsley, O’Shea, Kilgallon, Rose, Larsson (McClean 71), Gardner (Colback 82), N’Diaye, Johnson, Sessegnon, Wickham. Subs not used: Westwood, Graham, Mangane, Mandron, Laidler. Booked: Gardner (25), Rose (62)