Sunderland just TWO points off top of League One after Accrington win
Some exceptional finishing in the first half left John Coleman’s side with a mountain to climb after they took an early lead, the Black Cats taking a 3-1 lead that they never relinquished.
The home side had much of the play in the second half but Jon McLaughlin was largely untroubled in what ultimately proved to be a comfortable away win.
Accrington came into the game in good form and caught Sunderland out early on, a sluggish start punished when a fine long ball through the middle was gathered by Jordan Clark, who went round Jon McLaughlin and had the easiest of finishes.
The Black Cats struck back within two minutes, a goal of such quality that it stunned the home support into silence.
Denver Hume gathered a one-two from a throw in drive into space, crossing low towards the near post. Lynden Gooch had drifted over from the right and got in front of his marker, firing a superb, acrobatic volley into the top corner.
With both sides lining up in a 4-4-2, it was a similarly open contest to the previous meetngs between the two in recent months.
For a spell it was the home side who looked more dangerous, with Joe Pritchard twice spurning decent openings after the Black Cats had been opened up by the impressive central midfielder Sam Finley.
Sunderland began to gain control of the game, and should have taken the lead when good hold-up play from Chris Maguire sprung Marc McNulty free. McNulty sliced his effort wide of the goal, but Gooch did well to chase it down, cutting it back and finding George Dobson, who drew a good low save from Dimitar Evtimov.
They were ahead within moments, Gooch again crossing low from the right. Accrington shoul dhave stopped the cross but could only deflect it towards the penalty spot, where Aiden McGeady had intelligently dropped into space. With three defenders closing in, he shifted the ball onto his left foot and curled a precise effort into the top corner, the goalkeeper unmoved.
Sunderland were fortunate when a speculative effort from Colby Bishop was deflected onto the bar, but they were by now creating most of the openings and made it three with another ruthless break.
George Dobson, recalled to the side in place of Max Power, pressed well and pounced on a loose ball from the back. He quickly released Maguire in space and the forward took the defence and goalkeeper out of the equation with a smart dummy, shaping to shoot before teeing up Marc McNulty for a simple finish.
It could have been four before the break, with a Luke O’Nien header at the back post deflected onto the woodwork, defender Ross Sykes doing well to recover and turn it away from trouble.
On the stroke of half-time they again broke with purpose, Dobson releasing McNulty with a through ball before the striker’s heavy touch allowed Evtimov to gather.
The second half started in similar fashion, Maguire forcing Evtimov to scramble across his goal before seeing his effort from distance drop just wide of the far post.
Accrington Stanley began to exert some pressure on the ball as they looked to plot their way back into the game, though they were unable to turn their possession and territory into a clear opening.
They almost gifted a fourth to the visitors, Evtimov inexplicably letting an overhit pass from Maguire through him. Fortunately for him, he had taken just enough pace off the ball to prevent it from rolling over the line.
McLaughlin did well at the other end when the home side floated a free-kick into the box, Sykes towering over his marker and heading towards goal where the Scot turned it away from danger.
With ten to play he again had to be alert from a set piece, a knock down this time turned towards goal by Charles, a smart block denying the Accrington forward.
The Black Cats were rarely troubled in the closing stages as they saw out the lead, and substitute Will Grigg could have made it four in stoppage time after a sweeping counter from Elliot Embleton and McGeady.
Sunderland XI: McLaughlin; O’Nien, Willis, Ozturk, Hume; Gooch, Leadbitter (McGeouch, 74), Dobson, McGeady; Maguire (Grigg, 76), McNulty (Embleton, 82)
Subs: Burge, Flanagan, Power, McLaughlin
Accrington Stanley XI: Evtimov, Johnson, Hughes (Diallo, 61), Sykes, Sherif (Alese, 61) , Clark, Finley, Pritchard (Carvalho, 88) , Charles, Opoku, Bishop
Subs: Bursik, Edwards, Barclay, Simpson
Bookings: Leadbitter, 23 Alese, 83
Attendance: 4,164 (2,159 away)