Black Cats on top at half time

Sunderland were on course for three vital points in their bid for Premier League survival as they went in 1-0 up at the break against Hull this afternoon.

The Tigers had looked the likelier to score at the Stadium of Light, Kevin Kilbane missing the best chance with a header from Geovanni’s cross which brought a great save out of Craig Gordon.

But after soaking up the pressure, the hosts broke the deadlock on the stroke of half-time, Djibril Cisse sending a powerful header past Gordon from Andy Reid’s cross.

Aston Villa were also a goal up at West Ham as Martin O’Neill’s side tried to make the most of Arsenal’s Wembley date with Chelsea by moving closer to the Champions League places.

Villa will move to within five points of the Gunners, who are in FA Cup semi-final action later today, if they can hold on to the lead given to them by Emile Heskey’s early strike.

West Ham should have taken the lead in only the third minute when Junior Stanislas broke through the Villa defence and found himself one on one with Brad Friedel.

But the American keeper palmed the youngster’s effort away and it was Villa who went ahead after 10 minutes, Heskey on hand to convert James Milner’s pass from close range.

At the Riverside, Middlesbrough had the best of the opening 45 minutes against Fulham but were yet to score as they aimed to move out of the bottom three.

Stewart Downing twice went close with a couple of early strikes before Andy Johnson hit the inside of the post for Fulham against the run of play.

Portsmouth were also dominant in their relegation six-pointer with Bolton. Glen Johnson could have had a hat-trick but Jussi Jaaskelainen was equal to everything thrown at him, pushing the England defender’s third attempt on to the post on the half hour.

The afternoon’s other game between Blackburn and Stoke was also goaless at the interval after a lacklustre first half.

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