Wolves 2 Sunderland 1: O’Neill witnesses the scale of the task facing him

Sunderland's Kieran Richardson celebrates in front of the fans after putting them in front.

Sunderland's Kieran Richardson celebrates in front of the fans after putting them in front.

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SUNDERLAND threw away a great chance of victory at Wolves today as the arrival of new manager Martin O’Neill failed to lift the Black Cats from the doldrums.

After an even first half, watched by O’Neill in the stands, the game produced a dramatic second 45 minutes.

Sunderland's Sebastian Larsson (left) and Wolves' Matt Jarvis battle for the ball.

Sunderland's Sebastian Larsson (left) and Wolves' Matt Jarvis battle for the ball.

Sunderland claimed a priceless lead from a lightning counter-attack after 52 minutes.

It came from a Wolves corner that was cleared to the edge of the box and Ji set the move going before Bendtner’s deft flick released Sessegnon to run at the back-tracking home defence.

Kieran Richardson made up a tremendous amount of ground with an overlapping run that was spotted by Sessegnon, who released a perfectly-weighted ball into the box for the left-back to rifle home.

Richardson cleared from close to his own line five minutes later in a game that was wide open.

Sunderland were handed a chance to extend their lead on 72 minutes when Larsson’s jinking run was ended by Craddock.

The Swede went flying and referee Dowd pointed to the spot, even though contact was minimal and possibly just outside the box.

Larsson’s directed his spot kick low to Hennessey’s left, but the Welshman was equal to it and Wolves were level less than 30 seconds later.

They broke up their left and Jarvis whipped in a cross that found Fletcher in space behind Wes Brown to beat Westwood from seven yards.

The turn around was complete on 81 minutes when Jarvis’s ball into the box appeared to hit Jamie O’Hara on the arm.

Dowd allowed play to continue and the ball dropped for Fletcher to fire left-footed past the helpless Westwood.

Deep in added time, sub Ahmed Elmohamady was wrongly flagged offside from Westwood’s long free kick, robbing the Black Cats of a chance to level it.

Sunderland are now a point and a place above the relegation zone.

* Full report and reaction in tomorrow’s Sunderland Echo.