We actually won a home league game!
It will not go down as a classic and, after the opening half hour, we were very poor. We could barely string two passes together, kept giving the ball away under little pressure, and Stoke having a man sent off barely had an effect with the visitors pressing for an equaliser even with 10 men but none of that matters now, we got a vitally important three points.
Gus Poyet made nine changes from the 1-0 win over Kidderminster Harriers at the weekend, with only Jozy Altidore and Seb Larsson keeping their place in the starting XI. With rumours about a possible bid from Stoke for Steven Fletcher and Lee Cattermole, Fletcher started the game on the bench and Cattermole was absent from the squad, with Mauricio Taricco saying he had been ruled out due to injury.
Sunderland actually started much the brighter, they were lively, closed down Stoke quickly and were completely controlling the game. Adam Johnson started particularly brightly, with one bit of skill near the touchline on the halfway line standing out, which he followed with a 50 yard ball to try and find Marcos Alonso and was unlucky to see the ball just evade the Spaniard for a Stoke throw-in.
Seb Larsson then went close after a quick break, with good work by Jozy Altidore and Fabio Borini but Asmir Begovic made a smart save low to his left. The home side almost scored an own goal when Oussama Assaidi's cross flicked off Ki Sung-Yueng's head and Vito Mannone reacted quickly to keep it out but that was a rare foray forward by the Stoke as Sunderland were building up pressure.
Phil Bardsley hit an acrobatic effort over the bar when Wes Brown headed a free kick back across the box, Johnson and Jack Colback combined to set up Larsson but he could only fire over, then Bardsley went close when his well struck volley from Alonso's cross flashed wide.
With the pressure building Sunderland finally went ahead when Fabio Borini made room for himself outside the box and fired in an effort at goal, Begovic could only spill the ball out to the edge of the six-yard box where the onrushing Johnson took a touch to get past the goalkeeper and finished from a tight angle to give the home side a deserved lead.
From that point Poyet's side started to lose their grip on the game, with Charlie Adam hitting a warning shot wide when he really should have done better. Stoke went close to equalising after Mannone tried to collect a cross but ran into the back of John O'Shea, the ball fell to Peter Crouch but the Italian goalkeeper made a brilliant save at the lanky striker's feet to prevent a certain goal and got up quickly to collect the loose ball.
Mannone had to be alert again when Ryan Shawcross latched onto a deflected cross but his diving header was well saved and Brown reacted quickly to clear under pressure. Assaidi was causing problems on the left for Stoke but thankfully had very little end product but with players drawn to him Stoke's left back Erik Pieters made a surging run into Sunderland's box, only to see Crouch hit the ball out of play under pressure from the Sunderland defence.
Bardsley was replaced at half time, presumably with an injury, to be replaced by Ondrej Celustka but the second half started similarly to how the first half ended, with Sunderland looking sloppy in possession and Stoke pressuring the home side.
We got a huge break after 53 minutes, when Jozy Altidore turned the defence. was bundled over by Steven N'Zonzi as he got to the edge of the 18 yard box and with the home crowd screaming for the player to be sent off, referee Robert Madley only showed the Frenchman a yellow card. Thankfully it was N'Zonzi's second yellow of the game, both for fouls on Altidore, and as he walked off we really should have been able to kill off the game.
In the first five minutes after the sending off, it did look like Sunderland would take control and even find a second goal. Altidore went close to ending his goalscoring drought when he go free in the 18 yard box but his shot was well saved by Begovic and then Johnson shot just wide of goal with the Bosnian goalkeeper beaten. With 20 minutes to go, Larsson drove forward and fired a shot from 25 yards out that Begovic did well to keep out.
From that point it was all Stoke City, with Altidore going off and being replaced by Fletcher, we couldn't get the ball to stick up front and with nerves kicking in, even the most simple of passes going astray. Even Ki was guilty of conceding possession too easily.
Stoke debutant Peter Odemwingie really should have scored with 15 minutes left on the clock when he made room for himself in the box but his weak shot was easily gathered by Mannone, Colback then conceded a free kick on the edge of the box but Adam's shot was hit right into the wall and he could only fire his shot from the rebound straight at Mannone at the near post.
The visitors almost snatched an equaliser twice late on, first Shawcross got on the end of a cross but he saw his header loop onto the crossbar and out of play and then Brown nearly put through his own net whilst trying to intercept a cross, thankfully it went just wide. Colback almost wrapped up the game in added-on time but his shot from an acute angle was tipped over by Begovic.
Thankfully we held on for a vital clean sheet and an even more important three points, which takes us out of the bottom three for the first time all season and sees us two points clear of the drop. Getting maximum points from a game we've not played well in has been a very rare occurrence this season and sets us up nicely for the derby at the weekend.