Sunderland won this relegation six pointer and boosted their Premier League survival hopes as they ended a run of five straight defeats with a win over bottom side Aston Villa.
The hosts took the lead against the run of play when Patrick van Aanholt’s low 20-yard shot deflected wickedly off Micah Richards and into the net.
A brilliant acrobatic volley from Carles Gil levelled after the break, before Jermain Defoe’s low strike.
Defoe added a late third, leaving Villa with no wins in 18 league matches.
Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce described the match as the “biggest of the season” and his players looked to be affected by nerves as they let Aston Villa dominate early on.
The Black Cats went into the game seven points adrift of safety, and you could see why as they continually gifted the visitors possession.
Only Vito Mannone’s low save from Jordan Veretout kept things level until, against the run of play, Van Aanholt’s shot deflected off Richards to leave goalkeeper Brad Guzan wrong-footed.
The hosts knew only a win would do and, after Gil’s stunning equaliser, Defoe stepped forward to give the Black Cats new hope and move them to within four points of safety.