Black Cats now three points from safety with just five matches left this season.
Sunderland won 3-0 at local rivals Newcastle United on Sunday to fire their bid to avoid relegation from the Premier League and give Paolo Di Canio a memorable victory in his first northeast derby.
Stephane Sessegnon, Adam Johnson and David Vaughan scored three excellent goals as Sunderland moved three points clear of the bottom three and to within two points of Alan Pardew’s Newcastle.
Sessegnon broke the deadlock mid-way through a frantic first half at St James’ Park.
The recalled James McClean picked up a loose pass from Jonas Gutierrez and fed Sessegnon, who held off Gutierrez and drilled a low shot past goalkeeper Tim Krul from 25 yards.
Di Canio’s reaction was typically effusive, the new Sunderland manager sprinting down the touchline and punching the air in delight.
Newcastle received a blow shortly before the hour when Krul had to go off after landing awkwardly, with Rob Elliot coming on in his place.
The hosts had a goal controversially disallowed for offside in the 62nd minute, despite Papiss Cisse appearing to be onside when he fired home from close range.
Johnson made it 2-0 with a fine goal in the 74th minute, drifting in from the right and shaping a 20-yard shot inside the left-hand post. This time, Di Canio opted for a knee slide.
Vaughan killed the game with eight minutes to play by arrowing a glorious shot into the top-right corner from 20 yards, although the Welshman appeared to be offside when he received the ball.
Manchester United visit Stoke City later on Sunday, when victory will take Alex Ferguson’s side 15 points clear of Manchester City at the top of the table.