Second-half goals from Dominique Bruinenberg, Hayley Sharp and Abbey Joice secured a third successive home win for Sunderland in all competitions as they swatted Birmingham City aside.
After a quiet first half, the game came to life early in the second thanks in the main to Bruinenberg’s second goal of the season before Sharp and Joice converted late chances.
At the other end, Rachael Laws made an important double save from Rachel Williams and Charlie Wellings to keep the Lady Black Cats’ fifth clean sheet of the campaign.
In the fourth minute, Laws tipped behind an effort from Wellings with a shot from just inside the penalty area but that was as good as it got in a lack-lustre first half.
But after break the hosts took the lead after Birmingham failed to clear a set-piece. The ball fell to Bruinenberg, who lashed home past the despairing Hannah Hampton.
Laws denied the visitors an equaliser five minutes later with a fine double save. A mix-up at the back allowed Williams to run clear and her shot was saved at point-blank range by Laws.
The ball rebounded to Wellings, but Laws was up quickly to smother the effort at the feet of the Birmingham winger.
And Sunderland secured the three points when Sharp stroked home from 15 yards out before Joice broke in to the penalty down the left, cut in on her right foot and fired into the bottom corner to round off a perfect evening.
Keeper Laws was delighted with the win.
“It was a game we definitely came into thinking we could pick up points, whether that was a minimum of one point or a maximum of three,” she said.
“In the first half we didn’t particularly play well, we didn’t keep the ball as well as we could have, but we implement our plan in the second half and it was quite comfortable in the end.
“(Bruinenberg’s) was a great strike. We have a tendency to overplay when we get in those situations and don’t take the shots. It was a fantastic strike.”
“In the past we could have let our foot of the gas and played for the 1-0, but today we pushed on and scored two late to secure the points.”
Sunderland Ladies: Laws, Sharp, Stewart, Williams, Pitman, Lipka, Staniforth, Wyne, Ramshaw (Joice 26), Bruinenberg (Sjoman 71), Galloway. Subs not used: Preuss, Lambert, Koren, Gibson, Barker. Booked: Williams 67
Birmingham City Ladies: Hampton, Sargent, Carter, Mannion, Harrop, Mayling (Quinn 61), Ladd, Wellings, Hegerberg (Ayisi 74), Follis, Williams. Subs not used: Stenson, Westwood, Ewers, Cusack, P Williams.
Referee: Paul Brown