Josh Sargent’s fourth goal in three games sealed a 1-0 win for Norwich to pile the misery on Sunderland as their hunt for a new manager begins.
The American striker’s devastating late tap-in added to the gloom on Wearside after Alex Neil quit to take over at Championship rivals Stoke.
Former Canaries boss Neil walked out of Sunderland just months after securing promotion and 24 hours before he had the chance to take Sunderland to the top of the league.
And with his former assistant Martin Canning left in charge, Sunderland hit the woodwork twice and were left to rue a number of missed chances before Sargent stole three points for Dean Smith’s side.
Tim Krul’s goal led a charmed life as Sunderland failed to win at the Stadium of Light for the third time since their return to the Championship.
The former Newcastle keeper, who had received a warm welcome on his return to the North East, made one superb instinctive save to secure their first away win of the season. He touched Ross Stewart’s volley against the bar before Ellis Simms headed against the post.
But it was Krul’s back four who worked hardest to win three valuable points for Smith’s side who had previously lost on their travels to Cardiff and Hull City.
Captain Grant Hanley made two crucial interventions on the goal-line – denying Alex Pritchard with one block – while Andrew Omobamidele, Max Aarons and Sam Byram also made diving saves to deny the hosts.
Sargent even got in on the act when he charged down an Ellis shot at close range but his most devastating act came at the other end when he provided the killer touch to hammer Aaron Ramsey’s cross into an empty on the break for his fourth of the season.
Sargent was earlier denied by Anthony Patterson at his near post when Kieran Dowell found space in the Sunderland penalty area and slipped the ball into the path of the US international.
Luke O’Nien nodded a Pritchard corner wide before he was booked for pulling back Sargent on halfway and Jeff Clarke wasted a great pass from Pritchard with a dreadful shot.
Corry Evans thought he had broken the deadlock when his fierce volley from a cleared Pritchard corner hit Hanley on the goal-line.
Dan Neil and Gooch both saw shots from rehearsed free-kicks with Pritchard fly through a crowded penalty and somehow avoid nestling in the back of the net. Stewart’s final shot of the half took a familiar path when it was bravely blocked by Aarons and then booted to safety.
Sunderland should have taken the lead just before the hour when Smith threw on three experienced substitutes in Aaron Ramsey, Temmu Pukki and Todd Cantwell.
Stewart met Gooch’s swinging cross from the right with a measured left-foot volley but Krul got the faintest touch to knock the ball on to the bar.
Pritchard then measured his half-volley from the rebound but his firm shot hit Hanley painfully just below the midriff when he managed to make the goal-line.
And inevitably, Canning’s men were made to pay for the misses when Smith’s big guns swept through them to score the only goal of the game.
Patterson was out of his goal when Ramsey broke down the left and his cross evaded the Sunderland defence for Sargent to lift home his fourth goal in three games.
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