STEVE BRUCE enjoyed a dream return to former club Sunderland as Hull City claimed only their second away win of the Premier League season.
The Tigers’ £14m strike duo did the damage with Shane Long netting in the first half and then Nikica Jelavic heading his first top flight goal for 11 months after the interval.
City’s second win on the road - the other also came in the North East at Newcastle United in September - was fully merited with Bruce’s men putting in a polished display against a Sunderland outfit who played for almost the entire game with ten men.
Wes Brown’s red card - for a professional foul on Long - inside three minutes was the handicap that the Black Cats simply couldn’t overcome.
Credit, though, should go to the Tigers for the manner in which they exploited the numerical superiority by constantly spreading the ball out wide and showing patience.
That served to keep the Black Cats moving and, eventually, that showed in the tired legs of the home side.
For City, meanwhile, the strikes from Long and Jelavic meant they are no longer the only side in the Premier League not to have won in 2014. The 2-0 win also made it a sweet first return to the Stadium of Light since his sacking by Sunderland in November, 2011.
The afternoon started in the worst possible fashion for Sunderland with a horrendous mistake by Phil Bardsley leaving Wes Brown with little alternative but to try and redeem the situation with a sliding tackle on Shane Long.
Unfortunately for the former Manchester United defender, he was a split second out in his timing and referee Mike Jones had no alternative but to brandish a red card.
The game was just three minutes old and for the rest of the first half, Hull were in total control thanks to an incisive passing game that made the most of their superior numbers.
City had just one goal to show for their dominance at the interval, Long flicking the ball into the net after Jake Livermore had returned the ball to a danger zone after Jozy Altidore had only half-cleared a corner.
Long’s opener came just moments after Livermore had brought a stunning save from Vita Mannone, who the hosts’ hero throughout.
As well as denying Livermore in the 16th minute, he showed great agility to keep out a looping Nikica Jelavic header while Sunderland were also grateful to Bardsley for a last-gasp clearance as the Croat waited to tap in a Liam Rosenior cross.
The best Sunderland could manage in the first half was a shot from Adam Johnson that flew straight at Steve Harper in the visitors’ goal.
After the restart, Steve Harper did have a save to make when Ki Sung Yueng’s shot looped dangerously up off Paul McShane.
Hull, though, remained in control and Jelavic should have done better than roll a shot wide when played through on 56 minutes.
It was a let-off for the Black Cats, just as it was a few minutes later when Jelavic failed to see Maynor Figueroa on the overlap as City broke at speed.
Happily for Jelavic, he more than made up for his lack of vision on 66 minutes when the striker headed past mannone after Figueroa’s shot had looped up off Santiago Vergini.
With a two goal advantage, Bruce was able to bring Sone Aluko on for his first action in almost four months and he brought a flying save from Mannone at the death.