No joy for Black Cats in South London.
Steven Fletcher made a goalscoring return to action for Sunderland but Crystal Palace took all three points in South London.
Danny Gabbidon, Dwight Gayle and Stuart O’Keefe scored for the hosts as Paolo Di Canio’s side suffered their first away defeat of the campaign.
Fletcher had made it 1-1 with a fine header on his return to the Sunderland side after five months out with an ankle injury but Palace hit back twice to take the points.
Gayle scored from the penalty spot after John O'Shea was sent off before O'Keefe struck a third goal late on.
Di Canio made five changes to the team that beat MK Dons 4-2 on Tuesday night with two-goal striker Connor Wickham returning to the side in place of the injured Jozy Altidore.
Keiren Westwood, Modibo Diakite, Seb Larsson and Emanuele Giaccherini also returned to the starting line-up for the clash at Selhurst Park.
The hosts took the lead after just eight minutes as Jose Campana’s corner was bundled over the line by Gabbidon after a deflection off Ondrej Celustka.
The Black Cats looked to reply immediately but both Wickham and Larsson saw their shots blocked by the Palace defence.
Sunderland then went close after Celustka fired a fine ball across the six-yard box, but Ji couldn’t connect for the visitors.
Diakite was the next Black Cats player to go close but he headed Johnson’s deep corner over at the back post.
Jason Puncheon, making his home debut, was effective throughout for the Eagles with his pace and power pivotal to their counter-attacks and he dragged wide from 25 yards on the half-hour.
Johnson, who created most of Sunderland’s chances in the first half, made good progress down the right before pulling back for Wickham who saw his shot blocked by Gabbidon.
Giaccherini went close to equalising with the Black Cats’ best chance of the half but the Italian international’s curling effort was well blocked.
Mile Jedinak nearly doubled the hosts’ advantage just before half-time; the Australian international led a counter attack before curling a 30-yard strike just wide.
Fletcher replaced Ji at half time and the Scottish international was a menace to the Palace defence on his return from a five-month layoff.
Gayle went close to making it 2-0 after just five second-half minutes but his shot was deflected wide by Diakite.
Fletcher grabbed the equaliser just after the hour mark - sub Charis Mavrias fed Jack Colback who crossed perfectly for the Scottish international to nod home.
The travelling contingent of 2,216 Black Cats fans were sent into raptures by Fletcher’s strike and they were nearly cheering a second goal for the former Wolves man minutes later, but Gabbidon managed to clear for a corner as Fletcher looked to get in behind.
Jonny Williams and Puncheon both went close before Palace gained the advantage when Gayle was brought down in the area by O’Shea when through on goal. The former Peterborough man stepped up to convert the spot-kick himself after O'Shea was shown a straight red card.
The Black Cats couldn't muster many chances to equalise with the numerical deficit proving difficult to overcome – Johnson’s 20-yard saved drive was about as close as the visitors came.
Westwood made two fine saves to deny Williams and then Kagisho Dikgacoi before the hosts eventually grabbed their third through substitute O’Keefe; the 22-year-old former Southend man curled home in stoppage time, leaving the Irish stopper with no chance.
- Yellow Delaney
- Campaña (Williams)
- Gayle (Wilbraham)
- Chamakh (O'Keefe)
- O'Shea Red
- Giaccherini (Mavrias)
- Ji (Fletcher)
- Adilson Cabral