ADAM Johnson’s 17th-minute strike was enough to hand Sunderland a win which, coupled with West Ham’s failure to emerge from their trip to Chelsea with an unlikely victory, lifted them out of the bottom three for the first time since August.
However, they needed a superb 39th-minute save by keeper Vito Mannone and then six minutes from time, the crossbar to deny Ryan Shawcross an equaliser.
Asked if it felt like a big moment, first-team coach Charlie Oatway, standing in for the unwell Gus Poyet at the post-match press conference, said: “Yes, it does.
“Since we came in, you could see the strain on people’s faces in and around the club, and it’s such a big achievement for those people as well as the fans and the players.
“They have to put up with it as well and keep hoping that we get out of the trouble that we are in, so it will be nice to go in tomorrow and see, hopefully, some smiling faces.
“I don’t know how long it’s going to last because of the games we have got coming up, so it’s going to be tough. But it will be nice to see their faces.
“We have done well of late. We have got a style that we want to play, we are managing to get points and we have managed to claw it back, so to tick another box of winning at home, it’s a good achievement for everyone.”
Sunderland midfielder Lee Cattermole was conspicuous by his absence, sparking fresh speculation over Stoke’s reported interest in him, but Stoke boss Mark Hughes insisted no bid had been tabled and Oatway confirmed that.
He said: “He just had a little bit of a knock. There have been no bids.”
Meanwhile, Argentinian striker Ignacio Scocco watched from the stands as he closed in on a move to Sunderland.