Sunderland made it three wins from four Premier League matches to continue their revival by overcoming reigning champions Leicester City 2-1 at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
Last weekend’s 2-0 defeat at Liverpool followed back-to-back victories over Bournemouth and Hull City, but Sunderland got back to winning ways thanks to an own goal from Robert Huth and Jermain Defoe’s strike as their early-season malaise showed more signs of lifting.
David Moyes’ team started positively but had to wait until the 64th minute to open the scoring when substitute Jan Kirchhoff’s header ricocheted off Huth and nestled into the back of the net.
Referee Andre Marriner opted against awarding Sunderland what appeared to be a deserved penalty for Danny Simpson’s tackle on the adventurous Patrick van Aanholt, but Defoe added their second with an instinctive finish 13 minutes from time.
Leicester managed to pull one back when substitutes Demarai Gray and Shinji Okazaki combined for the Japanese to steer home, but concerns will remain over Jamie Vardy’s form after his barren run was extended to 16 club matches in all competitions.
Sunderland held on for the win but remain in the relegation zone, while Leicester’s winless run in the top flight now stands at five matches.
The Stadium of Light crowd was boisterous as Sunderland came flying out of the blocks, Victor Anichebe having a shot deflected wide by Wes Morgan and a mishit effort from Defoe enough to excite the home faithful.
Van Aanholt was positive down Sunderland’s left but proved vulnerable to Leicester’s counter-attacks, although the visitors’ best chances came from set-pieces.
Vardy, however, was unable to make the most of a pair of headed opportunities.
Claudio Ranieri’s side grew into the game and Christian Fuchs saw his floated cross from the left wing strike the crossbar in first-half stoppage time.
Kirchhoff replaced Jason Denayer for the second half, while Steven Pienaar was brought off for Sebastian Larsson after a collision with Marc Albrighton at the end of the first half resulted in the South African suffering a head injury.
Leicester remained in the ascendancy but, after Islam Slimani had a shot from six yards blocked by Papy Djilobodji, it was Sunderland who got the opening goal.
Kirchhoff’s near-post header from Larsson’s corner struck Huth and beat the wrongfooted Ron-Robert Zieler.
The hosts were unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty when Simpson sent Van Aanholt down inside the box, though Marriner was unmoved.
Ranieri sent Ahmed Musa and Gray on in the 73rd minute in a bid to spark a recovery, but they quickly fell two behind.
Huth blocked Watmore’s strike from the left-hand side of the box but the rebound fell to Defoe, who rifled beyond the helpless Zieler.
There was still hope for Leicester when Okazaki, who replaced Slimani, guided Gray’s low delivery from the left beyond Jordan Pickford to set up a tense finale.
Watmore was taken off on a stretcher with five minutes remaining and Pickford produced a brilliant save to deny Morgan following a scramble in the box in the 96th minute.
That ensured Sunderland held on for the victory, with Leicester’s next task a trip to Porto for their final Champions League group-stage match.