Charlie Wyke stars as Sunderland respond to Barnsley and Portsmouth with crucial win over Doncaster
Sunderland kept their automatic promotion fate in their own hands with a convincing win over Doncaster Rovers.
Lewis Morgan and the exceptional Charlie Wyke got on the scoresheet as the Black Cats delivered one of their most controlled performances this season.
A stirring atmosphere in the Stadium of Light leaves the Black Cats going into the final four games of the season with renewed optimism.
Sunderland had come into the game under pressure after a late Matthew Clarke winner meant that both Portsmouth and Barnsley took three points from their games.
Charlton Athletic had been beaten earlier in the day but the Black Cats were still left with ground to make up.
The 5-4 defeat to Coventry City last week had increased nerves on Wearside and forced Jack Ross into a host of changes.
Both centre-backs were changed, Alim Ozturk making his first appearance since January and partnering Jimmy Dunne for the first time.
The response Ross got was perfect, Sunderland dominating from the off.
There was a slight element of fortune about their opening goal, with Ozturk fortunate to escape punishment for an apparent foul on January target John Marquis as he looked to get in behind.
Sunderland swept up the pitch where Aiden McGeady stood up a cross to the back post. Charlie Wyke nodded down precisely and Lewis Morgan connected with a fine half-volley that rifled into the back of the net.
Wyke was at the heart of all Sunderland's attacks, holding the ball up well and winning countless headers.
It allowed the Black Cats to comfortably bypass Doncaster Rovers' high press and they continued to do most of the running in the game.
Luke O'Nien connected with a loose ball cleanly 25 years out ten minutes later but it flew wide of the near post.
Doncaster were composed in possession, but for the most part the home side were rarely troubled in their defensive third.
They doubled their advantage half an hour in when Morgan went close again on his right foot, a goalbound effort just headed over the bar. The following corner was cleared but only as far as Max Power on the halfway line, the midfielder floating in a dangerous long pass.
Marko Marosi came to try and punch clear but made a major misjudgment, Jimmy Dunne getting to the ball and flicking a header over him. Wyke was alert and had the simplest of finishes.
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It had been a complete half from the hosts but they were fortunate on the brink of the interval when Danny Andrew's wicked free kick, from all of 30 yards, hit the base of the post.
The Black Cats heeded that warning and went close themselves just after the interval, Bryan Oviedo overlapping superbly and driving towards goal from his own half. His low shot across goal had Marosi beaten but agonisingly met the same fate as Andrew's effort.
They continued to apply the pressure and went close when a loose pass from the Doncaster defence allowed McGeady to counter, the winger finding Wyke with a precise pass. His first touch was good and so was his shot at goal, Marosi doing well to palm it away from trouble.
It was an important storm for the away side to weather and as they half progressed they began to take control of the ball.
Sunderland's precision on the ball started to decline a touch and they found themselves edging deeper towards their own goal.
Still, Jon McLaughlin's interventions were minimal and for all their possession, Doncaster created little.
Ross began to freshen up side by bringing on Lynden Gooch and Will Grigg, Wyke leaving the field to a standing ovation.
Sunderland managed the rest of the contest comfortably as they rose back into third position.
Sunderland XI: McLaughlin; O'Nien, Ozturk, Dunne, Oviedo; Cattermole, Power (Leadbitter, 89), Honeyman, Morgan, McGeady (Gooch, 75); Wyke
Subs: Ruiter, Maguire, Flanagan, Hume
Doncaster Rovers XI: Marosi; Blair, Downing, Butler, Andrew; Rowe, Whiteman (Crawford,45), Coppinger (May, 45); Kane, Wilks (Smith, 82), Marquis
Subs: Jones, Anderson, Sadlier, Lewis
Bookings: Cattermole, 67 Andrew, 86