TWO GOALS inside three minutes saw Champions League-chasing Spurs come from behind to defeat rejuvenated Sunderland, writes Chris Young.
The Black Cats seemed on course for a third successive Premier League victory when John O’Shea’s first goal in red and white handed Martin O’Neill’s side a half-time lead.
But within six minutes of the restart Tottenham ahead courtesy of a Carlos Cuellar own goal and then a quick-fire second from Aaron Lennon.
Sunderland were dogged in their attempts to grab an equaliser, but Spurs went closest to another goal with Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor both denied by stunning saves from Simon Mignolet.
O’Neill made just one change from the side which beat Premier League champions Manchester City, with John O’Shea recovering from illness to replace Danny Rose in the starting line-up – the on-loan Spurs man ineligible to face his parent club.
O’Shea slotted in at centre-half alongside Carlos Cuellar, with Matt Kilgallon shifting to left-back.
Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas changed his central defensive duo from the side which romped to a 4-0 victory at Aston Villa.
Steven Caulker and Michael Dawson replaced the injured William Gallas and Jan Vertonghen, who was only fit enough for a place on the bench.
Gareth Bale provided Sunderland with a warning sign in the fourth minute when he evaded the attentions of Craig Gardner down the left, burst down the flank and pulled the ball back to the edge of the area.
But Emmanuel Adebayor was off-balance as he unleashed a right-footed shot and it was a comfortable save for Simon Mignolet down to his left.
Gardner had Sunderland’s first effort a minute later with a 25-yard free-kick which deflected off Jermain Defoe harmlessly into the arms of Hugo Lloris.
Sunderland just lacked a final touch in the 18th minute when James McClean drove inside and clipped in an inswinging right-footed cross to the far post.
Adam Johnson kept the ball in with a stabbed first-time volley that rolled agonisingly across the face, between the waiting Stephane Sessegnon and Steven Fletcher.
Two minutes later, Sandro drove in a shot from the right-hand side of the area which Simon Mignolet could only gather safely at the second attempt.
McClean carelessly gave the ball away on the counter-attack in the 25th minute and he was almost punished as Aaron Lennon fed Adebayor in behind the Sunderland defence.
It was a narrow angle though for the Togo striker down the inside left channel and with Gardner rushing back and Mignolet coming out of his goal, his shot was blocked behind by the Sunderland stopper.
Bale then glanced a header a couple of yards wide after being picked out by Lennon’s chipped cross from the right.
Only the woodwork saved Sunderland on the half-hour mark when Defoe drifted to the left and curled a shot towards the far corner which was deflected off the outstretched leg of Carlos Cuellar.
As Mignolet tried to gather, Adebayor looked to smash it home from six yards out, only for his effort to rattle the crossbar.
Cuellar headed onto the roof of the net in the 37th minute after meeting Johnson’s inswinging free-kick from the right.
But a deadball situation did provide the breakthrough for Sunderland two minutes later.
Seb Larsson’s inswinging free-kick from the left was flicked on by O’Shea into the path of Steven Fletcher whose powerful left-footed shot was brilliantly blocked by Lloris.
But the ball bounced back into the path of O’Shea who kept his composure and slotted it into the net.
HALF-TIME Sunderland 1 Spurs 0
A set-piece provided a leveller for Spurs within three minutes of the re-start when Kyle Walker’s corner from the right deflected off the top of Cuellar’s head at the near post and beat the helpless Mignolet.
It was the first of two quick-fire blows from Spurs as Andre Villas-Boas’ side took the lead three minutes later.
Lennon inadvertently played the ball off Kilgallon and it bounced in behind the Sunderland defender.
The England winger just beat Kilgallon in the foot-race between the pair and curled it beyond Mignolet inside the near post.
Sunderland responded and Lloris was immediately called into action to push away Johnson’s low shot at the near post after the Black Cats winger gathered Sessegnon’s pull-back on the edge of the area.
Only a magnificent save from Mignolet denied Spurs a third on the hour mark.
Bale burst forward from inside his own half after Larsson committed himself too easily.
The Welshman carried the ball to the left-hand by-line and pulled it back into the area where the goal was gaping for Defoe.
The striker took a touch to control and although he was off-balance managed to get a well-struck shot away which Mignolet somehow parried away.
Moments later, Sessegnon should have done much better when McClean played him in down the left-hand channel, but the Benin international screwed his left-footed shot on the turn horribly wide.
O’Neill shuffled his pack moments later with Fraizer Campbell introduced for Kilgallon.
The change saw Campbell go to the right, Johnson to the left, McClean into central midfield and Colback drop back to left-back.
O’Shea then limped off with Titus Bramble taking his spot alongside Cuellar.
Mignolet again kept Sunderland in contention in the 82nd minute after substitute Clint Dempsey’s through-ball left Adebayor with a one-on-one.
Adebayor tried to slot it low past Mignolet, but the Sunderland stopper made himself big and saved with his outstretched left leg.
FULL-TIME Sunderland 1 Spurs 2
SUNDERLAND: Mignolet, Gardner, Cuellar, O’Shea (Bramble 68), Kilgallon (Campbell 62), Johnson, Larsson (Wickham 80), Colback, McClean, Sessegnon, Fletcher. Subs not used: Westwood, McFadden, Vaughan, Ji. Booked: Cuellar (47)
SPURS: Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Caulker, Naughton, Lennon (Parker 83), Sandro, Dembele, Bale (Sigurdsson 90), Defoe (Dempsey 76), Adebayor. Subs not used: Friedel,Vertonghen, Huddlestone, Livermore. Booked: Dawson (68), Bale (81)
Referee: Martin Atkinson (Yorkshire)