Six things we learned as reborn Sunderland beat Stoke to climb out of relegation zone

Sunderland beat Stoke City 2-0
Sunderland beat Stoke City 2-0
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The international break has done wonders for Sunderland.

Consecutive wins and clean sheets has seen the Black Cats climb out of the relegation zone for the first time this season.

Duncan Watmore grabs the second for Sunderland

Duncan Watmore grabs the second for Sunderland

Sam Allardyce has now masterminded three wins out the six games he has overseen since taking charge from Dick Advocaat.

Quite the turnaround, with Sunderland now looking resolute at the back, while remaining a threat going forward.

Here's what we learned from the 2-0 win over Stoke City:

Finally, Sunderland have a winning formula:

Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce

Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce

Allardyce has kept faith with 3-5-2 and it has paid dividends this past week, with victories over Crystal Palace and Stoke City.

Stoke have never won at the Stadium of Light in the Premier League so the omens were good heading into the game.

And Sunderland didn't disappoint.

The 3-5-2 system worked well at Palace, with Sunderland defending in numbers and hitting the Eagles on the break.

At home on Saturday, Sunderland were more free-flowing and kept plugging away before finally cracking the Stoke defence eight minutes from time.

Duncan Watmore a super-sub, albeit earlier than expected:

Ahead of the game, Allardyce confirmed his intentions to use England Under-21 star Watmore in the super-sub role.

Coming off the bench late on in games, targeting the tiring opposition defence.

That was to be the plan against Stoke too until Jermain Defoe's early exit after 31 minutes with a hamstring injury.

And Watmore changed the game. Sunderland had been doing okay up until that point.

But when he came on, there was more pace and intent. The Stoke defence struggled, Ryan Shawcross eventually seeing red for one foul too many on Watmore.

If Defoe misses Arsenal through injury, Watmore can expect a starting berth.

Younes Kaboul has shone in recent weeks:

The towering French defender endured an indifferent start to his Sunderland career.

But in recent weeks, he has been head and shoulders above the rest of the Black Cats defence, a defence which has kept successive clean sheets.

Kaboul was man of the match at Selhurst Park and he impressed against Stoke too. Making one crucial block to deny Jonathan Walters in the first half.

Captain John O'Shea and Sebastian Coates deserve credit too, while Patrick van Aanholt has played his part. But Kaboul has been the stand-out defender.

Long may it continue.

Six weeks in, Allardyce finally knows his best side/system:

It has taken a few weeks of tinkering and different teams and formations but Allardyce has finally struck upon his best side.

Sunderland haven't named the same starting line-up since May 2014.

Against Stoke the manager was forced into one change, DeAndre Yedlin in for the suspended Billy Jones.

If Jones hadn't been suspended, he'd have started.

Yedlin enjoyed a good game though and next weekend against Arsenal at the Emirates, we could finally see the Black Cats name an unchanged line-up - injuries permitting.

Great weekend for Sunderland, not so for desperate Newcastle.

After all that talk of progress, turning the corner and feisty training sessions in recent weeks, Newcastle have been thumped twice - first by Leicester City and then Palace.

While Sunderland have strung together two wins, their North East rivals have lost their way completely and slipped back into the bottom three.

Aston Villa were beaten too and it was almost the perfect weekend for the Black Cats. Almost.

But somehow Bournemouth grabbed a 98th minute equaliser to come back for a point.

Mind, you can bet Allardyce would still have settled for that set of results prior to kick-off.

Steven Fletcher playing his best football since he joined the club:

Fletcher has been reborn in recent weeks.

He is arguably playing some of his best football since joining Sunderland.

A goal spree for Scotland has boosted his confidence, visible by his finish against Newcastle United a few weeks back.

His overall game has stepped up a notch too, working hard up front whether it be alongside Defoe or Watmore.

His form has been a real plus since Allardyce took charge.