- Venue:Stadium of Light
- Referee:Walton, P
Full Time: SUNDERLAND 3 - 1 BIRMINGHAM. A nervy second-half comes to a close and the visitors leave with nothing, though Sunderland have Craig Gordon to thank for that.
Gardner powers a header at goal from inside the six-yard box and Gordon pulls off a superb reflex save.
It is game over now for Birmingham who will no doubt be left ruing missed chances come the final whistle.
SUNDERLAND 3 - 1 BIRMINGHAM: Richardson breaks down the right flank and his cross finds CAMPBELL inside the box and he makes no mistake from close range.
McFadden tries to breathe some more life into Birmingham and swings a cross towards the far post which is plucked out of the air by Gordon.
Bent latches onto a long ball and pokes a shot past Hart but Johnson hacks the ball away before it can cross the line.
Sunderland are desperately trying to see this game out now as they adopt a 4-5-1 formation with the visitors looking the most likely to grab a late goal.
The home side are living very dangerously now and Alex McLeish will be wondering how his side are not level in this game.
Phillips' looping header has the beating of Gordon but drops over the bar and onto the roof of the net.
A defensive substitution from Bruce as Malbranque makes way for Lee Cattermole.
Carr causes all sorts of problems with a forward run and gets a shot away but it is blocked by a last ditch challenge from Ferdinand.
McFadden lets fly from 30-yards and fails to trouble Gordon on this occasion.
Richardson sends an inviting ball across the face of goal and Bent gets his head on it but cannot get enough direction on it to trouble Hart.
Alex McLeish also makes a change as Lee Bowyer comes on for Michel.
It is a double substitution from Steve Bruce as Benjani is replaced by Jordan Henderson.
John Mensah makes way for Phil Bardsley.
McFadden swings a corner into the mixer and Johnson rises above everyone to send a header over the bar from six-yards.
Gordon is on hand yet again as he superbly denies a goal-bound Ridgewell strike from inside the box.
Phillips makes an impression as he bursts into the box and has a great chance but Gordon makes another fine save.
Steve Bruce's side look very nervous now and it looks set to be an edgy final third of the game.
Jerome chases down a long ball and is through on goal but Gordon is quick off his line and does enough to put the forward off.
That was arguably Jerome's hardest chance of the game so far but he has put his side back in the game and made amends for his earlier misses.
SUNDERLAND 2 - 1 BIRMINGHAM: Michel plays through JEROME who does brilliantly to whip a right footed shot into the far corner of the goal.
Kevin Phillips receives a warm reception at his former club as he enters the fray in place of Christian Benitez.
Keith Fahey comes off for James McFadden.
The home fans are on their feet for Gordon who has without doubt kept his side's lead in tact.
Gordon pulls off a fantastic double save to deny Benitez and Carr who are left frustrated as close range efforts are saved.
The second-half has still not got going and Sunderland look as though they may have set out to defend their lead.
Jerome has squandered two golden opportunities to put his side back in this game now but it is still promising football from the visitors.
Ferguson's through ball leaves Jerome one-on-one with the keeper but he cannot slot his shot past the keeper who turns the ball behind for a corner.
The visitors have nothing to lose now and move forward with purpose before Gordon pips Jerome to Gardner's near post cross.
The second-half is underway at the Stadium of Light.
Half Time: SUNDERLAND 2 - 0 BIRMINGHAM: The hosts take a comfortable lead in at the break but Alex McLeish's side have shown signs of repeating their two goal comeback against Everton last weekend.
Ridgewell swings an inviting cross into the danger area and finds Jerome six-yards out but the forward smashes his effort over the bar. He really should have made it 2-1 there.
Craig Gardner shows a little frustration and picks up the first booking of the game following a rash challenge on Malbranque.
A half chance for Malbranque as his low drive from the edge of the box flashes past the post.
Hutton tries to create something as he bursts down the right but Ridgewell does well to shadow him away from danger.
Richardson intercepts a Dann pass and bends a right-footed shot towards the top corner. It looks destined for the net but an out-stretched Hart flies across his goal and pulls off a world class save.
Sunderland try to regain some momentum and enjoy a spell of possession before Meyler's long range effort deflects behind for a corner.
Michel tries his luck now from outside the box but his strike sails over the crossbar and fails to trouble Gordon.
Gordon is keeping Sunderland in the game at the moment as he pulls off a top drawer save to tip Benitez's crashing header onto the bar and out for a corner.
The attacking response from Birmingham has been much better in the last five minutes but the Black Cats still sit comfortably in this tie.
Fahey cuts onto his right foot on the corner of the box and his bent shot is superbly turned around the post by Gordon.
Jerome comes to life in the Sunderland half and forces a decent save out of Craig Gordon with a 20-yard drive.
More promising football from Birmingham's point of view as Liam Ridgewell gets into a forward position but his cross is headed clear by Mensah.
Keith Fahey swings a free-kick into the box and Roger Johnson's header is inches away from being turned in at the far post by Cameron Jerome but John Mensah does brilliantly to poke the ball behind for a corner.
It is all too easy for the hosts at the moment and further goals seem likely unless Birmingham can get a foothold in the game.
Sunderland come close to netting a third as Hart somehow manages to stop Fraizer Campbell's close range strike.
The visitors cannot get the ball out of their own half at the moment but manage to escape as Barry Ferguson throws himself in the way of an Alan Hutton effort.
That is Bent's 21st goal of the season and today will be doing his World Cup hopes no harm at all.
SUNDERLAND 2 - 0 BIRMINGHAM: Steed Malbranque plays a fine ball into the feet of BENT who cuts onto his left foot and drills a shot into the back of the net.
The visitors have their tails up now and are moving forward in search of a second with Birmingham unable to cope with their penetrating passes.
It's a dream start for Steve Bruce whose side had been under a little pressure prior to the goal.
SUNDERLAND 1 - 0 BIRMINGHAM: Benjani's shot deflects into the path of DARREN BENT who smashes the ball past a helpless Joe Hart from inside the box.
It has been a lively start to the game but no chances on goal so far as a ball into the box evades Christian Benitez.
Earl pressure from Birmingham as Stephen Carr breaks down the right flank but Anton Ferdinand does enough to nick the ball away from the full-back.
Referee Peter Walton gets the game underway.
There is one change to the Birmingham side that drew 2-2 with Everton last time out as Michel comes in for Lee Bowyer. Teemu Tainio - on loan from Sunderland - is ruled out of Alex McLeish's side due to Premier League rules.
In-form Kenwyne Jones is ruled out of today's tie with an injury so Benjani Mwaruwari partners Darren Bent up-front. Kieran Richardson and David Meyler again start in central midfield with Lee Cattermole deemed fit enough only for the bench.
Sunderland manager Steve Bruce is expected to hand Benjani a start against Birmingham City after it was confirmed that the groin injury Kenwyne Jones sustained during Sunday's 1-1 draw with Manchester City is likely to keep the Trinidad & Tobago international sidelined for a month.
The 31-year-old, who is currently on loan at the Stadium of Light from Roberto Mancini's side, has yet to make a start for the Black Cats since moving to Wearside in January.
Lee Cattermole could feature against Alex McLeish's side having missed the Manchester City game with the hamstring problem that has blighted him for much of the season.
Lorik Cana is suspended as he serves the second of his two-game ban for reaching 10 yellow cards but Jordan Henderson and Andy Reid are available after recovering from their respective injuries.
Bruce's side remain difficult to beat at home, losing only twice in 15 games on Wearside so far this term, but their recent improved form - a 4-0 battering of Bolton Wanderers and 1-1 draw with Manchester City - has lifted them seven points clear of the bottom three.
Birmingham are currently 13 points better off than Sunderland and retain slim hopes of clinching a Europa League place after coming back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Everton last weekend.
Despite only scoring slightly more than one goal per game, McLeish's team continue to defy their critics and, despite suffering a very disappointing FA Cup sixth round defeat to Portsmouth earlier this month, have taken seven points from their last three matches.
They look certain to secure a top-half finish this season, not a bad return from a team that only won promotion last term.
A quickfire Darren Bent double helped Sunderland to a 3-1 win over Birmingham City at the Stadium of Light.
Bent's 20th and 21st goals of the season put the hosts in the driving seat early on against the Blues, but Steve Bruce's side had to endure a second-half barrage from City before emerging victorious.
The Black Cats were in front after just five minutes. The ball fell to Benjani, in for the injured Kenwyne Jones, and the Zimbabwe star's effort was blocked into the path of Bent, who fired past Joe Hart in the City goal.
Six minutes later that man Bent was on target again as Steed Malbranque found him with a crossfield pass. The striker cut inside Scott Dann and fired across Hart to make it 2-0.
It could have been 3-0 inside the first quarter of an hour as Alan Hutton put in Kieran Richardson, whose shot was blocked out for a corner. And a minute later Fraizer Campbell forced an excellent save out of Hart.
The hosts didn't have it all their own way in the opening 45 minutes as Keith Fahey forced two good saves out of Craig Gordon on 22 and 24 minutes. The Scot made another save to deny Christian Benitez just five minutes later.
The Cats hit back on 37 minutes as Richardson forced a superb stop from Hart and four minutes later the midfielder turned provider squaring to Malbranque, who fired just wide of the upright from the edge of the box.
Just before the break the Blues had a chance to reduce the deficit, but Cameron Jerome fired high and wide with the goal seemingly at his mercy.
The visitors emerged with far attacking intent after the restart and forced the Wearsiders on to the back foot for long spells.
And Gordon had to be at his best to deny Jerome with his feet on 54 minutes.
The second half also saw the introduction of former Sunderland hero Kevin Phillips, who came on to replace Benitez, while James McFadden came on for Fahey.
McFadden's impact was immediate as he played a ball down the line for Jerome to outsprint Michael Turner and fire past Gordon to make it 2-1.
Buoyed by the goal, Birmingham came forward with renewed purpose, while the hosts were forced to defend for their lives.
Luckily for Bruce, Gordon was on top form and made further saves to deny Liam Ridgewell and Jerome.
The Black Cats were forced to rely on breaks to try to ease the pressure and Bent almost rounded off a fine afternoon on 87 minutes.
Sub Lee Cattermole played in the striker, who hooked the ball over Hart but couldn't get enough power on it and Roger Johnson got back to clear the goalbound effort.
A minute later it was all over as a contest as Jordan Henderson burst down the right, the Sunderland youngster got a lucky bounce after appearing to have lost the ball, and crossed in for Campbell to slide the ball home for 3-1.
The result means then Wearsiders may now be able to start looking up the table rather than over their shoulders at the relegation battle.
Shots off target