SUNDERLAND equalled their biggest victory of the season after ending a run of two back-to-back defeats with a dominant 3-0 win over West Ham.
The Black Cats produced one of their most impressive performances of the campaign to run out worthy winners against a poor Hammers outfit.
Seb Larsson broke the deadlock with his first of the season in the 12th minute after unleashing a stunning left-foot shot from 25 yards.
But Martin O’Neill’s men had to wait until early in the second half to add to their advantage when Adam Johnson scored at the third attempt after Jussi Jaaskelainen kept out efforts from James McClean and then Steven Fletcher.
Sunderland, inspired by David Vaughan in central midfield and Titus Bramble at centre-half, then added a third when McClean swept home Stephane Sessegnon’s inadvertent cross.
New signing Alfred N’Diaye was forced to start the game on the bench, as Martin O’Neill persisted with David Vaughan and Seb Larsson in central midfield.
But there was a welcome injury boost for the Sunderland manager with Stephane Sessegnon and John O’Shea both returning to the starting line-up.
Sessegnon replaced Phil Bardsley in the side, with Craig Gardner reverting to right-back, while O’Shea took the place of the injured Carlos Cuellar.
Jack Colback was included at the expense of hamstring victim Danny Rose at left-back.
West Ham boss Sam Allardyce made two changes from the side which drew with Manchester United in the FA Cup, with Matt Jarvis replacing Ricardo Vaz Te and Winston Reid coming in for James Tomkins.
Sunderland went close with less than three minutes on the clock when Sessegnon found space down the left and coasted past James Collins as he made his way into the area.
Sessegnon lifted the ball back from the left-hand by-line into the path of Adam Johnson, whose half-volley was blocked by Dan Potts, but only into the path of Vaughan on the edge of the area.
Vaughan hit a first time shot into the turf which skimmed just wide of the post.
Steven Fletcher created a chance for himself in the ninth minute when he squeezed between Collins and Alou Diarra on the edge of the area and hit a shot from 18 yards out which was deflected wide by Winston Reid.
But the breakthrough did arrive for Sunderland three minutes later and in some style.
Johnson’s cross from the right was headed cleared at the near post by Diarra, but only as far as Larsson, to the middle of goal, 25 yards out.
Larsson took a couple of touches with his right foot to bring the ball under control and then let fly with a left-foot shot which swerved in the air and beat Jussi Jaaskelainen.
West Ham produced their first effort on goal in the 19th minute when Guy Demel skipped down the right and delivered a cross which O’Shea couldn’t intercept at the near post.
The ball came through to Jarvis, who couldn’t bring the ball under control immediately and eventually unleashed a weak low shot which was comfortably saved by Simon Mignolet, low to his left.
Sessegnon scuffed a right-footed shot wide of the near post in the 25th minute after ghosting past Collins on the edge of the area.
Collins’ difficult afternoon came to an end prematurely eight minutes when he limped off after pulling a hamstring stretching for a loose ball.
Jaaskelainen did well to hold the ball in the 42nd minute when Sessegnon picked out James McClean on the left and the Irish winger drilled a powerful angled shot into the mix.
Fletcher was hunting for any spill from Jaaskelainen, but the Finnish stopper managed to gather cleanly.
HALF-TIME Sunderland 1 West Ham 0
West Ham made a second change at the interval with Ricardo Vaz Te replacing Jack Collison.
But within two minutes of the re-start, Sunderland had their second after Johnson grabbed his second in three games at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland caught the Hammers two-on-one on the counter-attack when Sessegnon broke away down the right and curled a superb crossfield ball into the path of McClean, leaving him with a clear run on goal.
McClean’s shot was well-saved by Jaaskelainen, but then left-back Dan Potts dallied on the rebound and Fletcher nipped in to force another save from the keeper.
But Johnson had followed in for the second rebound and managed to tuck it inside the near post with the outside of his left foot.
The woodwork denied Colback a first of the season in the 57th minute after the Tyneside robbed Vaz Te midway inside the Sunderland half and burst forward.
Sessegnon spotted the left-back’s run and sent him in behind the Hammers defence, to the left of goal.
Colback’s first shot was beaten away by Jaaskelainen, but then unleashed a second on the rebound which bounced against the outside of the far post.
But the third did arrive for Sunderland in the 74th minute when Vaughan picked out Johnson on the right.
Johnson surged inside and played a clever reverse pass for Sessegnon to set the Benin international away down the right-hand side of the area.
Sessegnon crept past a couple of challenges and then scuffed a left-footed shot which dribbled across the face into the path of McClean on the far post who slotted it under Jaaskelainen.
The goal effectively killed the game off, but West Ham persisted and forced Mignolet into his first meaningful save of the game with 10 minutes to go.
Jarvis floated in a cross from the left and the ball drifted through to Vaz Te at the far post.
The Portugese had time to control and unleash a shot, but Mignolet produced a decisive save to block at his near post.
Mignolet was called into action two minutes later when he saved smartly with his feet after Gardner couldn’t get enough on his clearing header.
N’Diaye was handed his Sunderland debut with six minutes to go when he replaced Johnson.
The Frenchman almost scored with his first touch when he received Connor Wickham’s lay-off 12 yards out and drove a right-footed shot just beyond the far post.
Pantomime villain Kevin Nolan almost added a consolation in the last minute but dinked his shot wide of the far post from Guy Demel’s right-wing cross.
FULL-TIME Sunderland 3 West Ham 0
SUNDERLAND: Mignolet, Gardner, O’Shea, Bramble, Colback, Johnson (N’Diaye 84), Vaughan, Larsson, McClean, Sessegnon (Sessegnon 88), Fletcher (Wickham 79). Subs not used: Westwood, Bardsley, Campbell, Kilgallon.
WEST HAM: Jaaskelainen, Demel, Reid, Collins (Tomkins 34), Potts, Collison (Vaz Te 46), Diarra, Jarvis, Nolan, J Cole, C Cole (Chamakh 56). Subs not used: Spiegel, Taylor, Diame, O’Neil. Booked: Diarra (52), Tomkins (58), Reid (69)