Swansea secured a fourth successive win in the Championship as they held off a spirited Sunderland fightback.
Ollie Cooper’s first goal of the season gave Swansea the lead on 13 minutes as his deflected effort found the net.
Recalled defender Harry Darling doubled the advantage when he poked home a second in first-half stoppage time.
Jack Clarke’s fine run and finish gave the visitors hope, but Swansea held firm despite the visitors being the better side after the break.
The Swans remain in the Championship play-off spots after collecting 12 points from 12, while the Black Cats fall to 12th place despite a spirited second-half display that almost saw them claim a share of the spoils.
Swansea boss Russell Martin felt compelled to change a winning side after their success at Watford – with the relentless schedule in mind – with Darling, Joel Latibeaudiere, Luke Cundle and Cooper replacing Matthew Sorinola, Kyle Naughton, Olivier Ntcham and Michael Obafemi.
Sunderland’s Tony Mowbray made only one change to the side that drew 0-0 with Blackpool in midweek with Dan Neil coming in for Amad Diallo.
Mowbray would have been wary of the hosts making a fast start after three successive victories and they did just that, with the visitors lucky not to fall behind after 90 seconds when a corner bounced off a defender and was scrambled off the line.
This was the first league meeting between these two sides outside of the top flight since March 1980 when The Jam topped the charts and Kramer versus Kramer dominated the box office.
Sunderland’s supporters sold out their away allocation and helped to create a good atmosphere at the Swansea.com Stadium, but the hosts continued to push for an opener with Anthony Patterson saving well from Cundle’s low drive.
That was a reprieve for only minutes though as the Swans went ahead on 13 minutes when Cooper took advantage of some enterprising play by Ryan Manning and Matt Grimes to send a deflected shot via Danny Batth’s outstretched boot past Patterson.
The hosts were the better side and they added a second in first-half injury time when Ben Cabango headed a free-kick back across goal and Darling showed a striker’s instinct to poke home from close range, with Patterson able to get a hand to the ball but unable to keep it out.
Sunderland needed a vast improvement after the break and they produced exactly that, with pressure higher up the pitch asking questions of Swansea they were not examined with before the break.
The visitors scored on 51 minutes when they won possession high up the pitch and Clarke showed a steady touch and fine composure to fire left-footed across goalkeeper Steve Benda.
It was deserved for Mowbray’s side, who were the better team after the break, although they did leave gaps for Swansea to exploit as they sought an equaliser.
Jay Fulton came close to putting Swansea 3-1 ahead with Patterson tipping over the bar to deny him, before Joel Piroe missed a relative sitter, heading straight at Patterson from just six yards out.
Substitute Amad Diallo failed to make Swansea pay for their miss as his effort was held by Benda, but Swansea – who have had a habit this season of conceding late goals – held firm in a tense final 10 minutes, with Clarke booked for simulation as the Black Cats appealed for a penalty after seven minutes of added time.
Swansea head coach Russell Martin said:
“If anyone had said at the start of the week we’d get nine points, I think only we would have believed that was possible.
“We spent a long time on a bus this week, we are a young group and it is really not easy. The second half was really painful for us.
“But this season we’ve had many times our results haven’t reflected our performance.
“Sunderland are a really good team with the way they play, they have some really good players and with their energy, they will cause many teams problems.”
Sunderland manager Tony Mowbray said:
“We had to upset their rhythm and react and find a way to disrupt them, which we did in the second half.
“I tend to react and look to react and we needed to react, because before half-time we didn’t do enough, but after half-time they didn’t look like a possession-based team.
“We made it too easy for them before half-time but, give Swansea credit, they are a good side.
“I don’t think anyone is expecting us to go away from home and win every game. We aren’t a top, top team – we have come up from League One.”
- 2. 3WoodSubstituted forSorinolaat 77′minutes
- 22LatibeaudiereBooked at 90mins
- 4FultonBooked at 54mins
- 18CuddleSubstituted forObafemiat 59′minutes
- 31cooperationSubstituted forI’m not callingat 59′minutes
- 17PyroSubstituted forOko-Flexat 87′minutes
- 10I’m not calling
- 11GoochBooked at 90mins
- 10RobertsSubstituted forBennettat 64′minutes
- 24NeilBooked at 16minsSubstituted forMatetat 78′minutes
- 4EvansBooked at 23mins
- 20ClarkeBooked at 90mins
- 8EmbletonBooked at 54minsSubstituted fornayat 78′minutes
- 21PritchardSubstituted forDialloat 77′minutes
- Gavin Ward
Match ends, Swansea City 2, Sunderland 1.
Second Half ends, Swansea City 2, Sunderland 1.
Jack Clarke (Sunderland) is shown the yellow card.
Lynden Gooch (Sunderland) is shown the yellow card.
Jack Clarke (Sunderland) has gone down, but the referee deems it simulation.
Corner, Sunderland. Conceded by Jay Fulton.
Foul by Ryan Manning (Swansea City).
Jewison Bennette (Sunderland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Harry Darling (Swansea City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Jack Clarke (Sunderland).
Joel Latibeaudiere (Swansea City) is shown the yellow card.
Offside, Sunderland. Anthony Patterson tries a through ball, but Jack Clarke is caught offside.
Corner, Swansea City. Conceded by Jay Matete.
Substitution, Swansea City. Armstrong Oko-Flex replaces Joël Piroe.
Ryan Manning (Swansea City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Jay Matete (Sunderland).
Attempt blocked. Amad Diallo (Sunderland) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Attempt blocked. Amad Diallo (Sunderland) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Abdoullah Ba.
Attempt blocked. Jay Matete (Sunderland) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Foul by Abdoullah Ba (Sunderland).