Two late goals broke Crewe Alexandra hearts at the Stadium of Light on Saturday afternoon.
The Alex put in a brave and resilient display at Sunderland and frustrated the hosts for long periods. Chris Long threatened to bag a winner on three occasions with the scores at 0-0 but couldn’t hequite break the deadlock.
But Sunderland subs Daniel Neil and Patrick Roberts popped up on 84 and 89 minutes respectively to take the three points for their side. It was harsh on David Artell’s men, who had worked hard and frustrated the home side and their fans throughout.
Dave Richards had only routine stuff to deal with and Long had the best chance of the first half when he raced onto Tom Lowery’s pass but he delayed and allowed recovering defenders to deny him a strike on goal.
Sunderland were booed off at the break but the second half resumed in the same vein, with their long balls to striker Ross Stewart failing to cause problems.
Long made himself known to Sunderland's centre-halfs in the second period after firing just wide of Anthony Patterson's goal.
Crewe's summer signing was at the heart of another chance. Lowery's curved pass over Bailey Wright's shoulder set Long free but his thunderous strike only stung the gloves of the Sunderland 'keeper.
Alex Neil's second half substitutions were the difference in the end as Dan Neil's first-time hit nestled into the back of the net from 20 yards out.
With Crewe now chasing the game and looking for the equaliser Manchester City loanee Patrick Roberts ran the channel before slotting the ball into the bottom corner.
David Artell handed Sean Lawton his professional debut with seconds left on the clock after replacing the returning Zac Williams.