SUNDERLAND, United Kingdom (AFP) - Sunderland moved out of the bottom three in the English Premier League for the first time since August with a 1-0 win over Stoke City on Wednesday.
Adam Johnson's 17th-minute goal continued the club's good run under Gustavo Poyet which has seen them lose only one of their last eight league games and also reach the League Cup final.
Stoke, though, are on a desperate run with five defeats in their last six league games and a winless run away from home stretching to 10 games.
As a result, they are fifth from bottom and only three points above the relegation zone.
Sunderland started in a confident frame of mind with Swedish international Sebastian Larsson testing Asmir Begovic - recalled by Mark Hughes in place of Jack Butland - early on.
The hosts deservedly took the lead when Johnson fired home after Begovic failed to gather Fabio Borini's shot, the strike meaning the England winger has either scored or created Sunderland's last seven league goals.
Stoke finally troubled Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone just after the half-hour mark as the Italian collided with John O'Shea but did brilliantly to twice deny former England international striker Peter Crouch from close range.
Mannone may have been fortunate that Crouch was so wasteful but there was nothing lucky about the brilliant stop he pulled off in the 40th minute from Ryan Shawcross, who had unintentionally deflected Charle Adam's innocuous shot.
Stoke's task got even harder in the 53rd minute as Steven N'Zonzi was sent off by referee Steven Madley for a second bookable offence after bringing down American international Jozy Altidore.
Altidore went close to doubling the lead shortly afterwards but was denied by Begovic and the outstanding Johnson also went close after being set up by Borini, his shot just sliding the wrong side of the post.
Begovic then produced a save out of the top drawer to deny Larsson but it was Stoke who finished the strongest.
Adam - who has shown a return to some form since his disappointing spell at Liverpool - drilled a free kick at Mannone, new signing Peter Odemwingie underhit a shot when well-placed to score, and Shawcross's header beat the Italian goalkeeper but came back off the bar.