After the Pontiff’s prayers, a heavenly finish from Fabio Borini ensured the Italian will be afforded deity status on Wearside until kingdom come.
The Italian substitute had been on the pitch for barely quarter of an hour when, with one unforgettable swing of the right boot, he secured his place in Wearside folklore with a stunning finish from the edge of the area, finding the top corner of the net after Jack Colback and Jozy Altidore embellished fine individual displays with neat approach play.
There were only six minutes left, and having come back once, Newcastle were unable to repeat the feat. Sunderland had won in the Premier League for the first time in six months, a result that lifted them off the bottom of the table. Pope Francis, the well-known football fan who promised to pray for Gus Poyet’s side after accepting an invitation to hold aloft a Sunderland shirt from the club’s chaplain, Father Marc Lyden-Smith on a visit to the Vatican earlier this week, would no doubt have approved.
“I’ll sleep well tonight,” Gus Poyet, Sunderland’s head coach confessed after revealing he opted not to follow the lead of his predecessor Paolo Di Cnaio with a full-length knee-slide to celebrate victory over the noisy neighbours in his first home game in charge.
The Uruguayan, who boasts 10 wins in 17 games against Newcastle, added: “I was close to running to the corner to celebrate with the lads when Fabio scored, but I thought better of it because I needed to get the message across to the players to concentrate. I’m sure Newcastle will hate me even more now.
“We needed a lift and there’s no better lift than this result.”
After belatedly opening his account following a season-long loan move from Liverpool, Borini said: “I hope this is the turning point for our season. We gave everything, and hopefully we’ll go on to get a few more victories now.”
Both sides took advantage of some cadaverous defending to score early in each half. After, via his programme notes, finally accepting blame for the disastrous appointment of Di Canio, Sunderland owner Ellis Short’s mood improved within the first five minutes as Newcastle were caught out by a short corner when Adam Johnson exchanged passes with Seb Larsson to send over a cross that was headed in at the far post by Steven Fletcher.
Sunderland’s Scotland international easily out-jumped his marker Paul
Dummett, the 22-year-old Welshman making his full Premier League debut as injured first-choice centre-backs Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor looked on from the stands.
Johnson had a more unwanted role in the leveller. Hatem Ben Arfa’s driven cross-shot from the left should have been cleared, but the England international midfielder failed to react, allowing Mathieu Debuchy to bundle the ball home from close range at the far post.
Yohan Cabaye and Shola Ameobi went close with late long-range efforts for Newcastle, before Borini showed them how to do it.
“We’re left with a feeling of disappointment,” Alan Pardew, the Newcastle manager, said. “Having bossed the game for long periods to lose to such a late goal is hard to take.”
SUNDERLAND (4-4-2): Westwood 7; Bardsley 6 (Celustka 77, 6) Cuellar 6, O’Shea 6, Dossena 6; Larsson 7, Cattermole 6 (Ki 70, 6), Colback 7, Johnson 6 (Borini 69, 7); Altidore 7, Fletcher 7.
NEWCASTLE (4-2-3-1): Krul 6; Debuchy 6, Williamson 5, Dummett 4, Santon 4; Cabaye 5, Tiote 5; Gouffran 3 (Sammy Ameobi 86, 5), Sissoko 3 (Cisse 46, 4), Remy 4 (Shola Ameobi 70, 4); Ben Arfa 5.
Referee: Lee Probert 7.