Sunderland 1-0 Portsmouth (1-0)
Chris Maguire scored the all-important goal as 10-man Sunderland secured a vital 1-0 first leg lead against Portsmouth in the Sky Bet League One Play-Off semi-finals.
A quiet first-half burst into action in the second with the introduction of Maguire from the substitutes bench.
He netted a stunning opening goal, volleying from just inside the Portsmouth area into the top corner.
Alim Ozturk saw red with more than 20 minutes to play, but the hosts held on for an important win.
Lee Cattermole had the first sight of goal in the fourth minute as he flicked a Lewis Morgan corner just wide of the Pompey right-hand post.
Neither side saw a real chance until the 25th minute and it was Sunderland who nearly took the lead.
Lynden Gooch perfectly hit a cross into the six-yard box and Charlie Wyke looked sure to score, but he couldn’t get himself set and headed it over.
10 minutes later, and it was Sunderland again who nearly took the lead as Max Power hit a tantalising cross into the area only to see Wyke put off enough by Pompey defender Christian Burgess.
As the game crept towards half time, neither side were able to grab a foothold in what was increasingly looking like a tactical chess match between the two coaches - we headed in at break tied at 0-0.
The second-half continued in the same vein as the first, and it was the introduction of Maguire just before the hour that turned the game in Sunderland’s favour.
As soon as he entered the field on 59 minutes, the hosts nearly scored the first of the game. Gooch worked hard down the right to beat Nathan Thompson and his delicious ball was met by the head of Honeyman but he was somehow denied by MacGillivary from close range.
It was to be the substitute Maguire who found the breakthrough on 62 minutes after some constant pressure in the Pompey half.
Oviedo crossed the ball into the area, but it was cleared by Pompey, but only to Maguire who fired in a wicked volley from just inside the area and into the top corner.
Sunderland continued their dominance but were caught on the counterattack on 67 minutes as Pompey drove forward in numbers.
Ozturk chased the ball down as he and Gareth Evans went for the loose ball and the Sunderland defender was adjudged to have brought his down man and he was sent off.
The resulting free kick was struck by Evans, and he thundered it off the bar from 20-yards out.
Even though the Lads were playing with 10-men, they were continuing to push and nearly scored on 79 minutes with Maguire stealing possession and firing a low drive off the post and out of play.
Portsmouth huffed and puffed for the final 10 minutes but were not able to create anything and it was Jack Ross’ men who took a vital first-leg lead before next weeks game at Fratton Park.
Sunderland: McLaughlin, Oviedo, Ozturk, Flanagan, O’Nien, Cattermole, Power, Honeyman, Gooch (Dunne, 70), Morgan (Maguire, 58), Wyke
Subs not used: Ruiter, Matthews, Hume, Grigg, Leadbitter
Portsmouth: MacGillivary, Thompson, Burgess, Clarke, Walkes, Naylor, Close, Lowe, Evans ©, Curtis (Bogle, 69), Hawkins (Solomon-Otabor, 69)
Subs not used: Bass, Cannon, Morris, May, Dennis