As part of our Premier League snap-shots, Peter O'Rourke looks back on Sunderland's 3-1 win over Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Last Updated: November 18, 2012 8:38pm
Sunderland eased the pressure on Martin O'Neill with a much-needed win over Fulham and in the process found the net three times.
The win was only Sunderland's second in the Premier League this term and lifts them three points clear of the drop zone just when questions were being asked about O'Neill's position at the Stadium of Light.
The victory could be the turning point of Sunderland's season although they were given a big helping hand with the sending off of Brede Hangeland
Fulham boss Martin Jol handed Giorgos Karagounis his first start for the club as a replacement for the suspended Chris Baird.
Damien Duff came back into the starting line-up for the injured Kieran Richardson and Alex Kacaniklic took the place Ashkan Dejagah who dropped to the bench after starting last time out against Arsenal.
Sunderland were boosted by the return to fitness of captain Lee Cattermole as he replaced James McClean in the starting XI.
Phil Bardsley started at right-back in place of the suspended Craig Gardner.
For Fulham it was the usual 4-4-1-1 formation as Jol sent out his side to attack Sunderland.
Karagounis started in central midfield alongside Steve Sidwell with Duff and Kacaniklic providing the width on either wing.
Bryan Ruiz was employed in a supporting role just behind lone front man Dimitar Berbatov.
Sunderland chief O'Neill also employed a 4-4-1-1 formation with Stephane Sessegnon playing just behind star striker Steven Fletcher.
With James McClean missing Adam Johnson started on the left wing with Seb Larsson on the other side of midfield.
Cattermole slotted straight back into the engine room alongside Jack Colback and he provided more defensive cover in front of the back four.
Fulham were forced into a change early on in the game as Kacaniklic picked up a knock and he was replaced by Hugo Rodallega.
Jol was also forced to shuffle his pack after the sending off of Hangeland with Karagounis sacrificed for Philippe Senderos as the Fulham manager looked to bolster his defence to cover for Hangeland's departure.
The home side then had their third and final change enforced on them when Ruiz hobbled off with a hamstring injury and Mladen Petric replaced the Costa Rican.
O'Neill did not make his first change until 20 minutes from time as he brought on McClean for Larsson and then introduced David Vaughan for Colback in another straight swap in midfield.
Lee Probert was not a favourite of the Fulham fans for sending off Brede Hangeland in the first half.
Hangeland was shown a straight red card for a dangerous tackle on Sunderland captain Lee Cattermole.
The big Norwegian won the ball in the challenge, but the tackle was deemed to be reckless as he left the ground and went in two-footed on Cattermole.
By the laws of the game the referee got the decision right.
The rest of the game was pretty straightforward for Probert with the official only handing out four more yellow cards, three to Sunderland players and the other to Sidwell.
Berbatov is Fulham's main source of goals and although he did not score against Sunderland he was a threat all afternoon.
Fulham lost one of their other main men early on with Hangeland's sending off with Aaron Hughes performing admirably in the home defence.
Petric had a major impact when coming off the bench, scoring one goal and going close to scoring a second only to be denied by Mignolet.
Mignolet picked up the man of the match honours as he produced two fine saves to keep out Sidwell and Petric late on to maintain Sunderland's lead in the game.
Steven Fletcher ended his mini goal drought as he scored his sixth goal of the season, while Sessegnon got off the mark for the campaign with a brilliant third goal.
This was a missed opportunity for Fulham as a win would have moved them level on points with sixth-placed Arsenal.
Fulham now face two away games against Stoke and local rivals Chelsea before taking on Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
Jol's side will now go into these games without skipper Hangeland following his sending off so it is a big few weeks for Fulham to see how they cope without the key defender
Four of Sunderland's next five fixtures are at home and in the next few weeks the Black Cats could find themselves in a much higher position in the table.
This win will be a massive boost for their confidence as they scored three goals away from home and last season's star performer Sessegnon netted his first league goal in 19 games which Sunderland fans hope will kick-start the Benin man's campaign.