Sunderland AFC boost survival hopes with stunning 4-1 Good Friday win over Derby County
Sunderland stunned Derby County on Good Friday with a superb 4-1 victory to give survival hopes a much-needed boost.
Sunderland are now three points from safety following the stunning victory in front of the TV cameras at Pride Park, with goals from George Honeyman, Ashley Fletcher, an Aiden McGeady penalty and John O'Shea goal sealing victory.
Chris Coleman's side, backed by a brilliant away following, were full value for the three points and it sees the Black Cats climb a place to 23rd, three points off Barnsley.
Sunderland had gone 10 games without a win and were seemingly heading for League One but the international break gave the players chance to regroup.
And they produced a reslient and determined display - sprinkled with moments of real quality - to boost survival hopes.
Coleman made five changes to the side beaten by Preston North End before the international break with Aiden McGeady and Ashley Fletcher restored.
Donald Love, Paddy McNair and Lynden Gooch also started, with Ovie Ejaria missing out through injury, Jake Clarke-Salter suspended and Adam Matthews only on the bench after only
returning on Wednesday night after a 17-hour flight from China.
Boro loanee Fletcher was played in by McGeady after two minutes, the striker's touch poor but Scott Carson's clearance rebounded off his knee and flew wide.
Up the other end, Lee Camp looked uncomfortable with Gary Rowett's Rams starting well at a buoyant Pride Park Stadium.
It was Sunderland, though, that took the lead.
McNair's fierce drive was pushed wide for a corner by Carson and from the set piece McGeady's corner was cleared to Lee Cattermole, who rolled the ball to George Honeyman.
His effort took a wicked deflection of Craig Forsyth and flew past Carson to send the away support into ecstasy.
Derby pressed but despite Camp looking uncomfortable with set pieces, the Black Cats held firm and the home support grew increasingly irate.
Sunderland doubled their lead in the 36th minute, the much-maligned Fletcher with his first goal for the club - and what a superb finish it was.
Latching on to a Richard Keogh pass, Fletcher then held off three Derby defenders before firing low past Carson.
Sunderland couldn't maintain their two goal advantage until the break though, Matej Vydra halving the deficit with a smart volley at the back post past Camp.
Fletcher should have doubled his tally in added-on time but his weak volley from McGeady's cross dribbled past the post.
HT: Derby County 1 Sunderland 2
It was the perfect start to the second half, Sunderland extending their lead after just four minutes, Aiden McGeady slotting home a penalty.
Forsyth, enduring a nightmare for the hosts after his earlier deflection for Honeyman's goal, brought down Gooch. Up stepped McGeady to extend the lead and prove a point.
Derby pressed Sunderland hard but clear cut chances were few and far between, Jerome not happy he wasn't awarded a penalty under pressure from Kone.
Sunderland remained patient and continued to counter-attack when the opportunity arose, Fletcher lashing an effort off the right-hand post from 25-yards in the 67th minute.
Sunderland saw four players booked in the space of ten minutes as the pressure ramped up; Kone, Love, Cattermole and O'Shea all booked.
McNair was the second Sunderland player to hit the woodwork, his header glancing off the crossbar from a McGeady corner.
Sunderland were soon in dreamland. Skipper O'Shea swept home to put the Black Cats 4-1 up in the 76th minute.
It sparked wild scenes of celebration on the bench and in the stands as Sunderland closed the gap to safety to just three points ahead of the Easter Monday visit of Sheffield Wednesday.
FT: Derby County 1 Sunderland 4
Derby County (4-2-3-1): Carson; Forsyth, Keogh, Davies, Baird; Johnson, Thorne (Nugent, 58); Weimann, Vydra, Lawrence (Palmer, 45); Jerome (Ledley, 83)
Derby subs: Roos, Wisdom, Pearce, Thomas.
Booked: Vydra (84)
Goals: Vydra (42)
Sunderland (4-1-4-1): Camp, Love, O'Shea (C), Kone, Oviedo (Matthews, 81), McNair (Wilson, 78), Cattermole, Honeyman, Gooch (Maja, 90), McGeady, Fletcher.
Subs: Steele, LuaLua, McManaman, Robson.
Booked: Kone (60), Love (63), Cattermole (67), O'Shea (72)
Goals: Honeyman (10), Fletcher (36), McGeady pen (49), O'Shea (76)
Referee: James Linington