Hull City 0-2 Sunderland
Sunderland threw a spanner in the works at the KCOM Stadium as Hull City stuttered in the race for survival and Marco Silva lost his first home game since March 2014.
The Tigers enjoyed time on the ball and they mustered a barrage of efforts on goal, but near-misses and a fine performance from Jordan Pickford ensured a nervy finale in East Yorkshire.
Sam Clucas forced the England international into action in the opening period before his opposite number denied Jermain Defoe following the restart, but the Tigers’ golden chance fell to former Black Cat Alfred N’Diaye.
Marooned after failing to collect a cross, Pickford and his defence froze as the ball dropped to the midfielder at the back post, but with the goal at his mercy he failed to take advantage.
And my word he was made to pay.
With 22 minutes remaining, Billy Jones dived in the box and caressed a pinpoint header into the net before Defoe added his 15th of the season with a close range finish in the closing stage.
Sunderland return to Wearside with a win.
David Moyes made three changes ahead of the game as George Honeyman was handed a chance to impress following a cameo appearance against AFC Bournemouth.
Billy Jones and Jason Denayer also came into the starting XI at the KCOM Stadium, as Donald Love and Wahbi Khazri dropped to the bench and Steven Pienaar missed out through injury.
The Tigers made a confident start to proceedings with Kamil Grosicki firing a low ball into the box and John O’Shea being called to intervened, but it was the Black Cats who should have taken the lead.
With just three minutes on the clock, Jones overlapped on the right wing and whipped a sumptuous cross into the path of Honeyman, but with Eldin Jakupovic rooted to the spot he headed wide.
Chances were few and far between in the period that followed but as the game ticked past the 20-minute mark Clucas let fly, with Pickford forced into a fine low stop to push the midfielder’s powerful effort to safety.
And seconds later the England international was flying through the air once more, as Harry Maguire hammered the ball home after marauding out from the back.
Frustration started to grow off the pitch as stray passes and a lack of quality heaped anxiety on the home support, and when Oumar Niasse’s bicycle kick was blocked by the hand of O’Shea – and the resulting penalty appeals were waved away – it only served to crank up the pressure.
Nerves were almost settled when Niasse and Abel Hernandez combined on the counter, but despite shifting the ball onto his favoured foot and creating an inch of space, the latter’s effort whistled wide.
The second period started with a clumsy challenge from Anichebe who shoved Markovic to ground inside the box, but once again the Tigers’ appealed in vain.
And they were almost caught cold with 50 minutes played, as an exceptional long ball from Pickford split the home defence in two and Defoe was denied by Jakupovic.
N’Diaye – one of two former Black Cats in the Hull side – was next to threaten as the game continued at a frantic pace, but the midfielder fluffed his effort from six yards with the goal at his mercy.
And the sides continued to trade blows as Defoe lashed an effort wide before Markovic was thwarted by the fingertips of Pickford as the stopper produced another moment of magic.
Heroics from O’Shea followed as a deflection almost gave Hernandez a clear sight at goal, with Andrew Robertson following suit as Fabio Borini broke down the right.
Something surely had to give, and with 22 minutes to play it did as Jones opened the scoring.
A well-worked corner taken by Honeyman was flicked on at the near post by O’Shea, with Jones stooping low to head home after losing marker Tom Huddlestone who entered the fray just moments before.
Hull rallied and peppered the Sunderland backline in the final stages, but there was no way past the sensational Pickford who somehow denied Hernandez to preserve Sunderland’s lead.
Defoe sealed the win in the closing stage, tapping home Seb Laorsson’s free-kick at the back post to seal victory for the Lads.
Hull City: Jakupovic, Elmohamady (Evandro 87), Robertson, Maguire, Ranocchia, N’Diaye (Mbokani 77), Clucas, Markovic (Huddlestone 65), Grosicki, Niasse, Hernandez.
Subs not used: Marshall, Dawson, Maloney, Henriksen.
Sunderland: Pickford, Jones, Denayer, Borini, O’Shea, Ndong, Defoe, Manquillo, Kone, Anichebe, Honeyman Larsson 79).
Subs not used: Mannone, Djilobodji, Rodwell, Khazri, Love, Gooch.