RACHEL Furness headed in a 72nd-minute winner as Sunderland Ladies went second in the Women’s Super League.
The Lady Black Cats had to do it the hard way, fighting back from 1-0 down to win at the Hetton Centre.
Furness lost the ball in the 10th minute for Angharad James to put Bristol ahead from outside the box.
But Carlton Fairweather’s side levelled 24 seconds after the interval when Brooke Chaplen scored her second goal in Sunderland colours.
And the winner came 18 minutes from time when Furness headed in from sub Vicky Greenwell’s free-kick.
Sunderland threatened an early goal when Chaplen’s long ball released Beth Mead in the third minute but Bristol keeper Mary Earps came out sharply to clear.
It was a bright start from the hosts and after a nice run from Abbey Joice, Chaplen tried her luck from outside the box but her shot just trickled towards Earps.
But Sunderland gifted Bristol Academy the lead in the 10th minute.
Furness lost the ball near the centre-circle, allowing JAMES to advance forward and her shot from 22 yards went low into Rachael Laws’ right-hand corner.
The Lady Black Cats hit back with two corners, Bristol clearing off the line from Tori Williams from the first and Furness heading wide from the next.
Bristol were a danger but, luckily for the hosts, they were caught offside three times.
When they weren’t offside, Nadia Lawrence drew a save from Laws.
Sunderland started to come good again with Williams putting in a good cross which keeper Earps did well to gather with Abby Holmes lurking.
The pace of Mead won a free-kick in a dangerous position in the 38th minute, with Chaplen going wide from outside the area after Bristol’s clearance fell invitingly for her.
Only the woodwork denied Sunderland an equaliser on 44 minutes when Mead met Keira Ramshaw’s right-wing cross with her header crashing off the bar.
And just before half-time, Williams shot wide with her right foot after coming up from left-back.
Bristol Academy 1
Sunderland needed just 24 seconds to find the equaliser at the start of the second half.
Mead did well to pull the ball back from near the by-line and CHAPLEN connected sweetly with her right foot.
The diving Earps got her finger tip to it but could only divert it onto the post and into the net.
It was all Sunderland who were dominating possession, Holmes getting forward down the right and Ramshaw and Mead enjoying some nice inter-changes.
Mead had the Lady Black Cats next attempt on goal when she got on the end of a Steph Bannon clearance but the away keeper got down smartly to save.
Ramshaw then shot wide from outside the box but they did not have to wait long before scoring again.
Mead was fouled by Matthews and sub Vicky Greenwell’s free-kick was powerfully headed home by FURNESS from eight yards.
Sunderland allowed themselves to drop too deep after the goal but did not look like conceding a goal.
Bristol saw a lot of ball late on and they almost engineered an injury-time equaliser.
Sub Gabby Bird looked in on goal, only for Holmes to produce a perfectly-timed interception.
BRISTOL ACADEMY 1
Sunderland Ladies: Laws, Holmes, Sharp, Bannon, T Williams, Joice (Greenwell 68), McFadden (McDougall 80), Furness, Chaplen, Ramshaw, Mead.
Subs: Harkness, Wilson, Kelly, Bass, Gutteridge
Bristol Academy Women: Earps, Dykes, Matthews, McCatty, Lawrence, Ladd, Murray, Watts, Ingle, James, Fantom-Brown (Bird 88)
Subs: Passariello, A Evans, G Evans, Dalton.
Referee: Graeme Fyvie