A memorable win at Wigan makes up today's classic clash.
5th April 2005
Mick McCarthy's side edged closer to a top-flight return at Wigan's JJB Stadium, in front of a 20,000 crowd of which almost half were Sunderland fans!
Marcus Stewart scored the only goal of the game in the mid-week top of the table clash that saw Sunderland just eight points away from a Premier League return and threatened to turn Wigan's promotion dream into a nightmare.
Three minutes into the game and luck was on the Black Cats' side, Stewart made a run to the box and the entire Wigan side stopped play, believing the ball had drifted out before Liam Lawrence made a run down the right flank.
However, neither the referee or any of the officials agreed with the Latics and instead, the game continued, allowing Lawrence to launch a superb cross beyond Athletic's backline and straight into the path of Stewart, who prodded home his 16th goal of the season.
The decision incensed the home bench, with Paul Jewell cutting a frustrated figure on the touchline for most of the first half.
Going into the break McCarthy was by far the happier of the two bosses as his defenders, Gary Breen and Steven Caldwell had thwarted every attack that Jason Roberts and Nathan Ellington made, quite a feat considering the duo had previously found the back of the net 42 times between them in the 2004-05 campaign.
In the opening minutes of the second half Stewart nearly doubled Sunderland's lead, until Ian Breckin did well to block his effort.
Striker Brett Omerod came on for the home side as they adopted a 4-3-3 system, giving Wigan the impetus for an attacking assault that lasted most of the second period.
Late in the game goalkeeper Thomas Myhre did well to block an unmarked Breckin, who got his head to a Graham Kavanagh free-kick.
By the time the final whistle was blown, the home section of the JJB Stadium was sparsely populated and the party was underway amongst the Sunderland fans.
With just five games remaining promotion seemed in Sunderland's grasp, whist Paul Jewell's men needed a turnaround in form to bounce back from two home defeats to make sure they stayed within the reach of automatic promotion or even a play-off spot come the end of the season.
Wigan Filan, Eaden, Jackson, Breckin, Baines, Teale (Jarrett 64), Kavanagh, Bullard, Mahon (Ormerod 45), Roberts, Ellington
Subs Not Used: Walsh, McMillan, Wright
Sunderland Myhre, Wright, Breen, Caldwell, McCartney (Danny Collins 73), Robinson, Lawrence, Whitehead, Arca, Brown, Stewart (Elliott 82)
Subs Not Used: Deane, Thornton, Alnwick