Norwich 0 Sunderland 3: Black Cats hold their nerve to win crucial relegation clash
Sunderland's hopes of Premier League survival remain very much alive after the Black Cats held their nerve to triumph in a make-or-break clash against relegation rivals Norwich City.
It was a nervy, scrappy and at times ugly encounter at Carrow Road, yet all that mattered was the result, as Sam Allardyce's men ran out 3-0 winners to move within a point of the fourth bottom Canaries.
Sam Allardyce's men actually produced the perfect away performance to secure their first win since February, with Sunderland defensively resolute and punishing Norwich's fragile back-line.
Fabio Borini opened the scoring from the penalty spot four minutes before the interval and then the Italian turned provider as he set up Jermain Defoe for a second early in the second half.
Norwich pushed for a way to get back into the game, but substitute Duncan Watmore - on his return from injury - sealed the points at the death when he lifted the ball past John Ruddy.
The opening exchanges were predictably nervy and scrappy, with the two benches involved in a spot of handbags after Sunderland were enraged by Robbie Brady dangerously pushing DeAndre Yedlin into the advertising boards on the sidelines.
Norwich were by far the better and more composed side early on, yet Fabio Borini came close to an 18th minute opener when he sent a cross-come-shot across the face and just wide of the far post.
Both defences looked riddled by anxiety though; Brady ghosting far too easily past Wahbi Khazri and Patrick van Aanholt before his low shot deflected off Younes Kaboul and was palmed away by Vito Mannone.
From the resulting corner, the ball fell to Martin Olsson on the half-volley 25 yards and he hit a superbly-struck left-footer which was tipped over the bar by Mannone.
But four minutes before the end of an ugly first half, Sunderland went ahead from the penalty spot, with Borini winning and converting it.
Norwich right-back Andre Wisdom produced an ugly high tackle on Borini, which saw referee Andre Marriner immediately point to the spot.
Borini kept his composure, planting the ball low into the bottom left-hand corner.
Both managers introduced fleet-of-foot wingers at the interval - Duncan Watmore for Sunderland and Nathan Redmond for Norwich - with the latter making an immediate impact.
Just four minutes after the restart, Redmond hit a skidding drive from 25 yards which crashed against the outside of the post and behind.
However, Sunderland doubled their advantage in the 53rd minute after Defoe netted his 13th goal of the season.
Norwich centre-half Sebastien Bassong had looked a liability all game and he was caught in possession by Jan Kirchhoff midway inside the Canaries half.
Kirchhoff fed Borini down the right, who delivered a delicious cross into the middle for Defoe and he steered the ball beyond John Ruddy.
Norwich pushed hard for a way back into the game though and enjoyed a strong spell of pressure from the hour mark, with Lee Cattermole twice clearing off the line.
Sunderland had several opportunities on the counter-attack to clinch the game which they persistently fluffed - Duncan Watmore rounding John Ruddy with 13 minutes to go, but then clipping the ball with his trailing leg and sending it harmlessly behind.
Redmond had another effort from distance in the 81st minute, but his rising drive from 25 yards was tipped away by Mannone.
But Sunderland sealed the points in stoppage time when Seb Larsson threaded Watmore in behind the Norwich defence and the England Under-21 international calmly lifted the ball over Ruddy.
Norwich: Ruddy, Wisdom, Bassong, Bennett, Olsson, Jarvis (Hoolahan 59), Howson, O'Neil, Brady (Redmond 46), Naismith (Jerome 74), Mbokani. Subs not used: Rudd, Dorrans, Mulumbu, Pinto. Booked: Wisdom (40), Olsson (59)
Sunderland: Mannone, Yedlin, Kone, Kaboul, van Aanholt, Kirchhoff (O'Shea 85), M'Vila (Larsson 67), Cattermole, Borini, Khazri (Watmore 46), Defoe. Subs not used: Pickford, Jones, N'Doye, Toivonen. Booked: Khazri (32), Cattermole (58)