Stephane Sessegnon fired Sunderland closer to Premier League safety with a 1-0 win over Everton at the Stadium of Light.
Sessegnon profited from a Leighton Baines mistake in first-half stoppage time and squeezed a 20-yard shot past Tim Howard to give Sunderland back-to-back victories and move them six points clear of the relegation zone.
The half-time introduction of Nikica Jelavic gave Everton greater attacking impetus, but they never looked like breaking down a solid Sunderland defence.
The final whistle brought wild celebrations from Paolo Di Canio, who has overseen two wins in three games since replacing Martin O'Neill.
David Moyes will rue another costly away slip from Everton that all but ends their Champions League aspirations.
Di Canio made just one change to the side that beat Newcastle 3-0 last weekend, bringing Jack Colback in for the injured Phil Bardsley.
The hosts made a vibrant start and might have taken an early lead thanks to a John Heitinga slip for Everton. As a long ball came over the top, Heitinga slowed his run to block Sessegnon who was running through. But the Dutchman had not spotted Danny Graham, who raced onto the ball and shot straight at Howard.
Everton dominated possession but the better chances went Sunderland's way - Sebastian Larsson went increasingly close with three venomous free-kicks, the last of which drew a fine save from Tim Howard.
Neither keeper was overworked until Sessegnon's speculative 20-yarder in first-half stoppage time. Baines surrendered possession inside his own half and Sessegnon took aim just outside the Everton box. The shot bobbled into the box and squirmed under the hand of the diving Howard on its way to the net.
Moyes reacted by introducing Jelavic alongside Victor Anichebe, and the Croat inspired Everton's best spell of the game. He sent one header just wide, then deflected a 25-yard Fellaini shot but could not beat Simon Mignolet.
Sunderland retreated deeper and deeper but stood firm, while the impressive Mignolet delivered another classy performance. The Belgian's only slip came when he picked up a backpass to give Everton an indirect free-kick inside the box. It was teed up for Baines, whose shot cannoned back off the wall assembled just in front of the Sunderland line.
Adam Johnson might have added some gloss to the scoreline, only to shot straight at Howard late on. But the home side held on for another vital win - one more will virtually guarantee their survival.
MAN OF THE MATCH: John O'Shea (Sunderland) - A calm and assured performance at the back from the Irishman, who helped the home side withstand some difficult moments in the second half.
SUNDERLAND: Mignolet 8, Colback 7, O’Shea 8, Cuellar 7, Rose 7, N’Diaye 6, Larsson 7, Johnson 7, McClean 7, Sessegnon 7, Graham 6. Subs: Vaughan N/A, Mangane N/A.
EVERTON: Howard 6, Coleman 7, Distin 7, Heitinga 5, Baines 5, Gibson 6, Fellaini 6, Osman 6, Pienaar 6, Mirallas 7, Anichebe 6. Subs: Jelavic 7, Naismith N/A, Barkley N/A.
- Sports & Recreation
- Stephane Sessegnon
- Tim Howard
- Paolo Di Canio