Aiden McGeady and Charlie Wyke goals against Rochdale make it three straight wins for Sunderland
Sunderland made it back-to-back league wins for the first time since they last played at Rochdale with a 2-1 win.
Charlie Wyke scored the crucial winner on a tough evening for the Black Cats, with the home side causing problems throughout.
A promising cameo from Will Grigg helped produce that vital win that sees Sunderland leap up the League One table.
Jack Ross had stuck with the side that had impressively secured their first win of the season on Saturday, with Charlie Wyke replacing Marc McNulty in the only change.
It was an open start to the contest and though Chris Maguire had the first meaningful effort, firing well over from distance, it was quickly clear that this would not be an easy evening for the Black Cats.
Ross had been effusive in his praise for opposite number Brian Barry-Murphy before the game, insisting that he expected Rochdale to play good football and cause problems.
That they did, playing out from the back with impressive composure and easily bypassing any press from the away side.
Sunderland were served an early warning when a fine ball into the channel released Oliver Rathbone, Luke O’Nien forced to take a booking as he brought him down near the area.
Rochdale nearly took the lead when Jordan Willis missed an attempted interception, allowing Callum Camps to run at goal. His drive was good but his end product poor, firing into the side netting.
The Black Cats were struggling to extert any real pressure, unable to hold onto the ball for any sustained period.
When they took the lead just before the half hour it was against the run of play but a fine bit of football.
Charlie Wyke rose superbly to win a header from Jon McLaughlin’s goal kick, nodding out wide to Lynden Gooch. He exchanged passes with Chris Maguire and O’Nien was released at the byline. He calmly cut the ball back across and Aiden McGeady was unmarked at the back post, taking one touch before emphatically finishing.
The home side were rocked and when the Black Cats forced a corner moments later, it looked as if the tide of the game could turn.
But another good move soon got Rochdale back on level terms, as they again found it too easy to get free down the wing.
Stephen Dooley pulled the ball back to the edge of the area where Camps’ first-time effort wrong-footed Jon McLaughlin.
It was no less than Rochdale deserved and left Ross with another big half-time team talk to try and get his side ahead.
McLaughlin was called into action just moments into the second half, Rathbone bundling O’Nien off the ball and forcing a decent save from the Scot low at his near post.
He had to do well again when Henderson won a long ball forward, teeing up Camps whose low effort bounced just before the Sunderland goalkeeper who palmed clear of danger.
Ross had seen enough and threw on Will Grigg in support of Wyke, who took just moments to make a difference.
Some good build-up play released O’Nien, who stood a good cross up to the back post. McGeady nodded it down and after taking a touch, Wyke turned it past Robert Sanchez in the Rochdale goal.
The Brighton loanee was then forced into a double save as Sunderland began to seize control, Grigg stealing in front of his marker and forcing a good block with a quick effort off his weaker foot. Wyke was first to the follow up but could only shoot straight at the stopper.
Both sides were now in a 4-4-2 and the game was breaking open, Rathbone and Alim Ozturk both missing with speculative efforts on the edge of the area.
Substitute Calvin Andrew went close when his effort from inside the box was deflected wide.
Sunderland did look a threat with substitute Dylan McGeouch pulling the strings in midfield intelligently, but Rochdale continued to push for a winner and were denied by McLaughlin when Dooley curled a threatening effort towards goal.
The home side ought to have equalised in stoppage time, with both Andrew and Camps missing headers from excellent positions inside the box.
Sunderland held on for three vital points.
Sunderland XI: McLaughlin; O’Nien, Ozturk, Willis, McLaughlin; Power (McGeouch, 65), Leadbitter; Gooch (Grigg, 55), Maguire (Embleton 87), McGeady; Wyke
Subs: Burge, Hume, Flanagan, Dobson
Rochdale XI: Sanchez; Norrington-Davies, McNulty, O’Connell, Dooley, Williams (Done, 83), Camps, Rathbone (Andrew, 69), Morley (Ryan, 65), Henderson, Matheson
Subs: Delaney, Andrew, Keohane, Magloire, Wade
Bookings: O’Nien, 13 McLaughlin, 65 Wyke, 67 Leadbitter, 77