Mel Copeland eyes Sunderland Ladies promotion next season after Cats clinch second with 5-2 victory over Sheffield FC
First-half goals from Bridget Galloway, Niamh McLaughlin, Katie Barker gave the Wearsiders a commanding half-time advantage.
Maria Farrguia added to her side’s lead in the second stanza before Milly Wortley and Emma Johnson pegged the home side back.
Georgia Gibson restored the home side’s three goal cushion and dampened the South Yorkshire outfit's comeback hopes.
“We still had something to play so it was really important that we won the game and finished second,” Copeland reflected. “It’s been a terrific season, so I’m over the moon.
“We now know what it takes to win the league, we came into this division a bit blind in the beginning."
The Lady Black Cats missed out on the division’s singular promotion place to Blackburn Rovers, a situation Sunderland’s manager doesn’t envisage for next season.
“Now that we’ve had a years experience and we’ll be aiming for promotion next year.”
“The team don’t want to stay in this league forever, we’re winners, we want to win games and we want to win leagues.
“I want to get out of this league as quick as possible."
Young Player of the Season Mollie Lambert was given the captain’s armband for the afternoon following usual skipper Keira Ramshaw's red card against Guiseley.
And it took her team just nine minutes to assert their dominance when right back Louise Griffiths jinkned down the wing and swung in a beautiful cross for Galloway to head home - the striker's 17th league goal of the season.
Sunderland again found success down Sheffield’s left side in the 25th minute - Barker wriggling free to pick out McLaughlin who turned turned the ball past Serena Clarke with a cool, right-footed finish.
Lisa Giampalma had a glorious chance to pull one back just minutes later but Alison Cowling’s heroic save denied the striker who saw her effort clawed onto the crossbar against all odds.
Sunderland went three up in the 37th minute with a stunning Barker solo goal - the 17-year-old winger drifted into a central position, beat three players then smashed home from outside the box.
“She (Barker) did well, she came off the line well and hit a great shot from distance which was a bit of a driven lob,” Copeland said.
“We’re delighted with her and pleased to have five different goal scorers,” she added.
Sunderland came out for the second-half with fresh intent, the outstanding Barker once again beating left-back Megan Tinsley then cutting a pass back towards Gibson who let the ball run for unmarked Farrugia to smash home in 53rd minute.
Wortley pulled one back for the visitors seven minutes later after Cowling’s initial save fell straight at the midfielder’s feet.
Cowling produced more heroics to thwart Sheffield - the American stopper bravely diving at the feet of substitute Molly Harvard.
Johnson pulled another back for Sheffield in the 80th minute after lax Sunderland defending gifted the substitute a chance.
Eight minutes later, Gibson, having struck the woodwork moments before, burst though the middle and played a superb one-two with McLaughlin before ruthlessly dispatching her shot past the incoming Clarke.