Dennis Cirkin scored on his return to the side as Sunderland won 1-0 at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Sunderland dominated a lot of the match without creating much of note, until Cirkin broke the deadlock in the second half following Alex Pritchard’s free kick.
With the play-offs looking more unlikely than ever, Tony Mowbray selected an experimental lineup with Cirkin, Pierre Ekwah, Abdoullah Ba, and Pritchard all coming into the side.
There was just one change to Cardiff’s team, with Sheyi Oji coming into the side. Connor Wickham started up front against his former team as the Bluebirds looked to take one step further away from the relegation zone.
The first chance came after 16 minutes when Amad Diallo pulled a cross back to Pierre Ekwah, who blazed his shot over the bar.
Sabri Lamouchi was clearly unimpressed with his team, as after 36 minutes he introduced a double substitution. Andy Rinomhota and Jack Simpson replaced Jaden Philogene and Sheyi Ojo
A minute later Sunderland had the ball in the net when Jack Clarke headed in Pritchard’s cross, but the flag was raised for offside.
Sory Kaba then had a golden chance to score with a free header, but nodded his effort straight into Anthony Patterson’s hands.
The single minute of added time came and went, the first half ending 0-0.
At half time, Connor Wickham was brought off for Kion Etete.
Etete soon caused trouble, squirming past Trai Hume and forcing a low save from Patterson.
Diallo broke down the right wing and linked up well with Pritchard, but he was swarmed by Cardiff in some last-ditch defending.
The opening goal had been coming, and on the hour mark Dennis Cirkin capitalised on Alex Pritchard’s powerful free kick to blast into an empty net. It was a good save initially from Ryan Allsop, but Cirkin was quickest to react.
Kaba brought the ball down on his chest inside the box, but blazed his shot wide when he should have done better.
On 80 minutes substitute Joe Gelhardt had a chance to kill the game when he was released by Jack Clarke. The striker delayed his shot for a second too long, and it was eventually blocked by Cedric Kipre.
Amad’s free kick then tested Allsop, forcing the keeper to dive low to his right.
Four minutes were announced and Cardiff piled on the pressure, but they couldn’t surmount any meaningful attack. Sunderland stood strong and saw out a second consecutive clean sheet away from home.
The Black Cats could have won the game by a bigger margin, such was their dominance on Easter Monday. The win moved Sunderland up to tenth in the table, with the play-offs now just four points away.