Sunderland 4-2 Gillingham
On the night Will Grigg caught fire, the Northern Ireland international was ice-cool from the spot as winning ways returned to Wearside.
After three consecutive draws, an electric start at the Stadium of Light saw Lee Cattermole strike within three minutes on his return to the fold.
The lead lasted less than 60 seconds as Tom Eaves dispatched an instant reply, but Tom Flanagan’s first goal for the club restored the Lads’ advantage with ten minutes played.
Brandon Hanlan levelled before the interval, but Sunderland soon shifted through the gears following the restart, and Grigg’s penalty midway through the second period sparked jubilant scenes in the Roker End.
After handing the first spot kick to his team-mate, Aiden McGeady tucked away the Black Cats’ second to cap off another impressive individual display.
Sunderland are now unbeaten in 13 games, and on the march.
Jack Ross made several changes for the game, as Chris Maguire’s Friday-night cameo earned a starting berth, and Flanagan and Cattermole were also named in the starting XI.
There were four goals inside the opening 20 minutes when the sides met earlier in the season, and three arrived in the first 10 minutes at the Stadium of Light.
Back in the side for the first time in a month, Cattermole marked his comeback with a poacher’s effort just three minutes into the game to hand Sunderland a dream start.
But the Lads’ lead didn’t last long, with Eaves stealing in and levelling within 60 seconds of the restart.
The side continued to trade blows and with 10 minutes played, the visitors were on the canvas once more, as Flanagan’s looping header found the net to restore the Black Cats’ advantage.
The Lads were well on their way, but Ross was forced into a change soon after, as Maguire failed to shake off an earlier knock and was unable to continue.
Lynden Gooch was subbed on and the enforced switch did little to affect the flow of the game, as McGeady and Grigg combined and offside flag denied the latter a clear run on goal.
However, the Gills would once again bite back, and they equalised for a second time five minutes before the interval, as Hanlan plundered the ball through a barrage of bodies to level.
Steve Lovell’s side continued to push forward following the break, and they mustered the first attempt of the second period when Silva Lopes’ 20-yard strike stung the palms of Jon McLaughlin.
At the other end, Tomas Holy was tested soon after, but just like his opposite number, he refused to be beaten and pushed Leadbitter’s dipping drive to safety.
With 65 minutes played, the ball flashed across the box and Luke O’Nien arrived like a steam train, but he was tripped as he looked to make contact and the referee pointed to the spot.
McGeady, who has typically stepped up from 12 yards this season, picked up the ball and gave it to Grigg, who was ice-cool from the spot to open his account.
And 11 minutes later the wing wizard resumed his spot-kick duties, sending the ‘keeper the wrong way to secure the points.
Attendance: 28, 364
Sunderland: McLaughlin, Flanagan, Dunne, O’Nien, James, Leadbitter (McGeouch 85), Cattermole (Power 89), Honeyman, McGeady, Maguire (Gooch 18), Grigg.
Subs not used: Ruiter, Ozturk, Wyke, Morgan.
Gillingham: Holy, O’Neill, Ehmer, Hanlan, Eaves, Burke (Parrett 90), Fuller, Lopes (Charles-Cook 68), Oldakern(List 74), Byrne, Ogilvie.
Subs not used: Reilly, Campbell, King, Hadler.