RECORD signing Claudio Marangoni flattered to deceive on his debut, but swashbuckling Sunderland still made it 19 points out of a possible 20 at home.
Marangoni, snapped up from Argentinian club San Lorenzo for £320,000, was clearly short of 100 per cent fitness.
But manager Ken Knighton enthused: “Considering it was his first game for a month and the fact that he has come over from Argentina twice and also been to Italy in between, I think he did very well.
“He was under a lot of pressure and is pleased that he has got the first one over. He has much more to offer and will only get better when we get him fit and used to our style of play.
“He has skill and will prove that in the weeks to come. I am sure he is going to be very good for players like Pop Robson, who will benefit from his ability to play early balls. He does a lot that people don’t see
“He tried a few things which he would not normally have done, but he was keen to impress the crowd, who were magnificent.
“To think it is only a few weeks off Christmas and we get a gate of 25,000, it is tremendous.”
Cardiff never looked like repeating their shock Roker Park win seven months previously, a victory which scuppered Sunderland’s promotion push.
Indeed, they were flattered to escape with only a 2-1 defeat, although Sunderland were gifted the opening goal in the 25th minute.
It was one to forget for young Cardiff keeper John Davies, standing in for glandular fever suffere Ton Healey.
Davies went up for an inswinging Kevin Arnott corner but promptly dropped it and when he tried to make amends, it was too late as the linesman had already signalled a goal.
Sunderland, who had been given a testing start to the match, ran the show from that point, with the luckless Davies guilty of mishandling errors to add to Cardiff’s problems.
Livewire Stan Cummins was desperately unlucky not to get his name on the scoresheet when he left three visiting defenders in his wake with a fine run that also took him past keeper Davies, only for Pontin to scroop the ball behind when a goal looked certain.
Sunderland deservedly doubled their advantage nine minutes into the second half, with the build-up play outstanding. Cummins broke well on the left and played a delightful ball inside the Cardiff right-back for barnstorming left-back Joe Bolton to run onto.
Bolton crossed hard and low into the danger area and though Alan Brown got no purchase on his first attempt, the ball broke for Pop Robson, who frinished clinically to net his 13th goal of a productive season.
Cardiff surprised the Roker crowd by pulling a goal back in the 86th minute, ensuring a nervous final few moments, when Ray Bishop, on the edge of the box, met Billy Ronson’s corner on the volley to leave keeper Chris Turner helpless.
Knighton, delighted with what he called his side’s best performance of the season, saw his men climb to eighth place, four points off the promotion places.
He had particular praise for two of the smallest men on the park, Cummins and Mick Buckley: “I knew what Stan was capable of when I bought him from Middlesbrough. He got two goals from midfield in his first two games and he could so easily have had one when playing up front in this one.
“These little fellows are a nighmare to defeners when going forward.”