Adam Johnson's last-minute strike earned Sunderland a 1-0 win that continued their recent Tyne-Wear derby dominance over Newcastle United.
The Sunderland winger struck to settle a Barclays Premier League contest that had up served up the usual passion and a great number of chances but some poor finishing at St James' Park. Newcastle headed into the match desperate to get one over on their rivals having lost each of the last three derbies, but endured yet more disappointment. An end-to-end opening half brought plenty of opportunities, with Connor Wickham spurning the best when heading wide from two yards.
Jordi Gomez also missed a great chance after the break, while the hosts were similarly wasteful in front of goal. Newcastle ended the game in the ascendancy, only for Johnson to cap a stunning counter-attack by firing beyond Jak Alnwick to ensure a fourth successive league victory for the first time.
The tone was set immediately as Lee Cattermole made a typically robust tackle on Daryl Janmaat after just 10 seconds. Sebastian Coates was booked for a strong challenge on Ayoze Perez and Paul Dummett curled the resulting 20-yard free-kick high and wide.
Newcastle remained on the front foot, with Moussa Sissoko hitting a shot straight at Costel Pantilimon after good work from Sammy Ameobi. The visitors could have been in front midway through the first half, when Wickham headed Johnson's free-kick wide from point-blank range.
As the yellow cards began to rise, so too did Sunderland chances. Steven Fletcher was the next to go close, rattling the woodwork with a clever, controlled volley from Sebastian Larsson's cross.
Alnwick had to be alert soon after to turn Wickham's 25-yard effort around a post.
Both sides continued to pose an attacking threat, with Perez curling a measured shot just wide before Alnwick was called into action to deny Wickham again.
The second period started on a worrying note, with a bloodied Steven Taylor receiving treatment following a collision with a post having bravely denied Fletcher a seemingly certain goal. Sunderland almost took full advantage of the defender being off the field to receive stitches, only for Gomez to fire wide with his left foot after playing a one-two with Fletcher.
Newcastle came back into the match and almost opened the scoring but Pantilimon tipped Perez's effort over the bar. The Romanian denied Adam Armstrong moments later, the substitute striker opting to shoot from a tight angle rather than square the ball for the onrushing Sissoko. Johnson then missed a great chance, having brilliantly turned Fabricio Coloccini before shooting wide.
The decisive moment came in the dying moments of normal time when, after Sissoko had seen an effort tipped over the crossbar, Johnson rifled home at the end of a superb counter-attack. Newcastle could not find a response, almost conceding again when Larsson found the side-netting after rounding Alnwick in stoppage time.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew: "You are pushing and we wanted to win - we would take the draw now but if you draw without pushing for the win you would be disappointed. Maybe we pushed a bit too hard but I am not going to criticise my players. They put in everything they could. Sunderland edged the first half but second half we went up a level. We should be sitting here as winners but we have lost. We now have to regroup and take our second half form into the game against Manchester United.
"Both goalkeepers played well, but I was pleased for Jak Alnwick. He stood up to enormous pressure but it is disappointing for our fans. Losing four times in a row against Sunderland is a tag that is going to stick on me now so I will have to wear it."
Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet: "One action was the difference but overall we had the better chances. But you still need something special to happen. Before we scored there was a great save by Costel Pantillimon, and I was thinking to change Adam Johnson.
"But he really wanted to stay in and scored the goal. Sometimes there is very little you need to win or lose a game. We needed a break that means you score one chance. We missed a few but we didn't stop believing. The idea today was to get three points, to be proud of the team, to make history with the four wins in a row."
|26 Dec 2014||v Man Utd (A)|
|28 Dec 2014||v Everton (H)|
|01 Jan 2015||v Burnley (H)|
|10 Jan 2015||v Chelsea (A)|
|17 Jan 2015||v Southampton (H)|
|31 Jan 2015||v Hull (A)|