SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY boss Jos Luhukay beamed with pride after a second-half display at the Stadium of Light that saw his in-form side extend their winning streak to three games.
After a goalless firsy half, Owls’ striker Lucas Joao hit his ninth goal of the season in the 59th minute, opening the floodgates to a flury of goals.
George Honeyman equalised less than two minutes later for Sunderland but then Wednesday took command by making the most of the home side’s defensive weaknesses.
Visiting captain Tom Lees volleyed in the second with 22 minutes remaining and seven minutes later the points were safe when Atdhe Nuhiu scored from close range.
It is a defeat that leaves Sunderland five points adrift of safety and that could become eight with six games to go should Birmingham beat Bolton tonight.
Wednesday, by contrast, have started to find some rhythm under Luhukay despite having little to play for except for pride in the middle of the table.
After the final whistle, the Dutchman was keen to focus on the success that his Nuhiu-Joao forward line had on Wearside.
“I am proud of my team that they have made good progress,” said Luhukay. “We are working hard for each other.
“It was not an easy game. We had to work hard for 90 minutes. We have strikers who don’t need a lot of chances, but we were very effective.
“At the moment we are in good confidence and the strikers trust themselves. They are making the difference.
We are working hard for each other. It was not an easy game. We had to work hard for 90 minutes. We have strikers who don’t need a lot of chances, but we were very effective.Sheffield Wednesday head coach, Jos Luhukay.
“Nuhiu was fantastic. The knock-down for Lucas was good too. It was great to get the result. I am three months here, everyone can see progression from Lucas and Atdhe.
“They are winning balls for us too. That is the character from the team too.
“I have been positive about him and Lucas also. It makes me positive when I see them every day.
“They always have a good attitude. They know they have the trust and respect from us.”
Wednesday chad gone close to taking the lead early on when wing-back George Boyd’s delivery from the left had just too much on it for Adam Reach to convert.
There was another fantastic chance for them too when Joao was picked out brilliantly by the boot of goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith after he came to gather a corner. Joao led the charge into the Sunderland half but rather than roll in the unmarked Boyd on the far side the forward decided to go it alone and he was blocked.
There was plenty of desire in Sunderland’s performance and their movement created a couple of half chances, the first for full-back Donald Love who fired a yard over the bar, while Lynden Gooch cut inside from the right and fired another drive wide.
Sunderland had started the second half brighter, but Joao was on hand just before the hour to power Nuhiu’s knock down from BarryBannan’s cross beyond goalkeeper Lee Camp.
Sunderland’s response was immediate. Gooch turned his man near the touchline and delivered to the back post two minutes later for Honeyman to nod down inside the near post.
But the Black Cats’ defensive problems were exposed again soon after. Gooch gave away a needless free-kick, Joey Pelupessy’s delivery was not dealt with and Lees was allowed to volley into the centre of the net.
Sunderland kept plugging away, with Lee Cattermole hitting the inside of the post and, from the rebound, there were strong claims for a penalty waved away when Gooch was brought down by Bannan.
But, with 15 minutes remaining, it was game over when Joao’s header was saved by Camp, only for Nuhiu to be on hand to head in the rebound.
Sunderland boss Chris Coleman said afterwards: “Performance-wise there’s not much more I could have asked. We did more than enough to come away with a result.”
Sunderland: Camp, Love, O’Shea, Wilson, Oviedo (Matthews 64), Cattermole, Gooch (Asoro 83), McNair, Honeyman (Ejaria 83), McGeady, Fletcher. Unused substitutes: Steele, LuaLua, McManaman, Maja.
Sheffield Wednesday: Wildsmith, Frederico Venancio, Lees, Fox (Thorniley 8), Hunt, Pelupessy, Bannan (Jones 83), Boyd, Reach, Lucas Joao (Forestieri 90), Nuhiu. Unused substitutes: Rhodes, Butterfield, Marco Matias, Dawson.
Referee: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire).