Black Cats march on
Sunderland's impressive form continued as a strike from James McClean secured them a 1-0 Barclays Premier League win against 10-man Stoke at a wintry Britannia Stadium.
In a contest during which snow fell throughout, a first half of few goalscoring opportunities finished with Potters defender Robert Huth getting sent off in the 45th minute - shown a straight red card following a tackle on David Meyler.
McClean then netted in the 60th minute, bursting through the hosts' defence and tucking the ball away to seal a victory which means the Black Cats have now taken 22 points from the 30 on offer in the Barclays Premier League since manager Martin O'Neill took charge of the Wearsiders.
Stoke enjoyed the lion's share of possession early on and, after Cameron Jerome was beaten to Peter Crouch's flick-on by Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, the Potters won a corner that led to Marc Wilson trying his luck from outside the box, firing in a low effort which was blocked.
Mignolet then claimed a useful-looking cross into the area from Glenn Whelan, while at the other end Stephane Sessegnon saw one shot deflected away from danger, before drilling another narrowly wide.
Jerome, who had taken a knock, came off for Ricardo Fuller before Jon Walters brought a save out of Mignolet with a drilled shot.
The first half ended on a sour note for Stoke as Huth was dismissed for a sliding challenge on Meyler. Stoke boss Tony Pulis, incensed by referee Martin Atkinson's decision, reacted by substituting Jermaine Pennant for Jonathan Woodgate.
Sunderland went close shortly after the interval as Sessegnon headed McClean's cross just over the bar.
At the other end, another Wilson long-range attempt looped up off a Black Cats shirt, but the visitors were made their man advantage count on the hour when McClean collected the ball from Sessegnon, powered forward and - having evaded Andy Wilkinson and Ryan Shawcross - slotted the decisive goal past former Sunderland goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen.
Crouch's header was caught by Mignolet, who then got down to save an angled effort from Fuller. Wilson's deflected shot earned a corner towards the end, but it went unconverted.