AFTER their heroics against Liverpool, Sunderland came crashing back down to earth with a bump as they lost 2-1 at Birmingham City.
Liam Ridgewell and James McFadden were on target as the Black Cats were outplayed by a Blues side that had failed to score more than one goal in all of their previous matches this season.
A late Scott Dann own goal gave the Black Cats a lifeline, but while Darren Bent shaved the post with a volley late on, the hosts hung on to claim all three points.
With both sides starting slowly, it was the 28th minute before either goalkeeper was called into serious action. Christian Benitez turned inside Phil Bardsley, but Craig Gordon turned the striker’s shot around the post.
However, the Sunderland shot-stopper was powerless to prevent Birmingham claiming the lead nine minutes later.
Sebastien Larsson drilled in a low free-kick from the left, and after Benitez missed the ball, full-back Ridgewell deflected it into the net from close range.
Ridgewell appeared to be in an offside position when he got his touch, but with Sunderland failing to record a single attempt on target before the interval, the visitors could not really complain about the scoreline at the break.
Similarly, they could not really grumble when they fell further behind three minutes in the second half.
McFadden picked up Cameron Jerome’s lay-off and, after turning inside Bardsley, the Scotland international curled a low shot into the bottom right-hand corner.
Sunderland still hadn’t tested Joe Hart at that stage, but they were handed a lifeline when Dann scored an own goal with eight minutes left.
Michael Turner headed Andy Reid’s free-kick over Hart, and Dann hooked the ball into the net as he attempted to clear.
BIRMINGHAM (4-4-2): Hart; Carr, Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell; Larsson, Bowyer, Ferguson, McFadden (O’Connor 76); Benitez, Jerome (McSheffrey 76).
Subs (not used): Taylor (gk), Parnaby, Queudrue, Carsley, Phillips.
SUNDERLAND (4-4-2): Gordon; Bardsley, Ferdinand, Turner, Richardson; Malbranque (Campbell 68), Henderson (McCartney 68), Cana (Zenden 68), Reid; Jones, Bent.
Subs: Fulop (gk), Nosworthy, Da Silva, Healy.