Sunderland suffered a blow to their Barclays Premier League survival hopes as West Ham United won 2-1 at the Stadium of Light on Monday night.
A powerful Andy Carroll header gave West Ham the lead inside the first 10 minutes while Mohamed Diame's deflected strike doubled the advantage just after the break. Sunderland did respond and pulled a goal back through Adam Johnson but the Black Cats were not able to add to their tally and they are 19th in the table, four points adrift of safety.
Sunderland have at least one match in hand on all of their relegation rivals, but with Tottenham Hotspur, Everton, Manchester City and Chelsea - all in the top six - awaiting Gus Poyet's men in their next four fixtures, the Wearside outfit face a tough battle.
The Hammers, who have now won six of their last nine Barclays Premier League fixtures, are 11 points adrift of the bottom three.
Carroll gave West Ham United the lead in the ninth minute with a trademark header, rising above John O'Shea to nod in Mark Noble's corner at the back post.
Lee Cattermole spurned two chances to quickly level proceedings from close range, first shooting at Adrian before shooting over while Carroll headed a George McCartney cross at Vito Mannone.
West Ham scored their second five minutes after the interval when Diame shot past Mannone. Carroll chested a long punt down into the path of Diame, and the midfielder met the ball on the edge of the area, firing into the back of the net via Santiago Vergini's deflection.
West Ham should have wrapped up the game on the hour mark, when Stewart Downing was sent through on goal, but Mannone superbly tipped wide, and his excellence allowed Sunderland a lifeline - one taken by Johnson.
The winger, who started from the bench, netted his eighth Barclays Premier League goal of the campaign when he fired into the top-left corner with a fizzing 20-yard effort.
The goal buoyed Sunderland, who ramped up the pressure as Adrian produced a double save to keep out Ki Sung-Yueng and Connor Wickham, while Fabio Borini fired into the side netting.
West Ham were able to stem Sunderland's flow, though, and although the hosts rallied late, they were not able to find a dramatic leveller.
Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet: "It's difficult to accept [these defeats] because sometimes when you see a team down at the bottom, a team that is suffering and with no spirit – they just give up.
"I don't think it is possible to see one of my teams giving up so it is going to the end, that's for sure. I think today we showed what we are, and that's it. Sometimes you need to be realistic and know the team we have got and know what you can do.
"I think today we tried everything possible. I hope we can get the luck … and we can win a few more games. It's about winning now. We still have a chance and we are going to go to the end."
West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce: " It's a fantastic result for us. It's going to be very difficult for the bottom three sides to catch us now.
"Every game in the Barclays Premier League is a tough one, every away game particularly. I thought the lads handled it really well. It got a little nerve-wracking towards the end when they got the goal. I think it was a really good finish from Johnson. (It is) a fantastic win at this stage of the season for us.
"Andy [Carroll] gives you an alternative. As a player, he is unique in many ways. There's not too many who can receive a ball or head a ball as good as he does. You saw the headed goal from the corner - there was nobody going to stop him.
"There's a lot more about him on the deck than people gave him credit for."
|07 Apr 2014||v Spurs (A)|
|12 Apr 2014||v Everton (H)|
|16 Apr 2014||v Man City (A)|
|19 Apr 2014||v Chelsea (A)|
|27 Apr 2014||v Cardiff (H)|
|03 May 2014||v Man Utd (A)|