Jermain Defoe hat-trick lifts Sunderland and increases Swansea's worries
Jermain Defoe struck a hat-trick as Sunderland won a thrilling Barclays Premier League relegation battle at Swansea.
The Black Cats' 4-2 victory was mired in controversy as they recovered from a 2-1 half-time deficit to claim a second successive league win and provide real hope of avoiding the drop.
Sunderland's victory took them above neighbours Newcastle on goal difference and within a point of Swansea, who were reduced to 10 men when Kyle Naughton was sent off close to half-time with the score 1-1.
Graham Scott, a late replacement for Andre Marriner on Monday, was taking charge of only his fourth top flight fixture - and the Oxfordshire official was in the spotlight most of the night with several big calls to make.
Defoe's first two goals despite him being perilously close to offside on both occasions, while Scott awarded Swansea a first-half penalty which appeared generous in the extreme - then sent off Naughton in contentious fashion.
Sunderland were gifted the perfect start after three minutes when Lukasz Fabianski's loose ball was collected by Adam Johnson and his pass found Fabio Borini.
The former Swansea striker's shot was too hot for Fabianski to hold and Defoe was on the spot to tap into an empty net to score against the Welsh club for the third consecutive game.
Swansea were visibly shaken and it almost got worse when Patrick van Aanholt raided down the left to deliver a cross which the unmarked Johnson sent carelessly wide.
Had that gone in it might have been a long way back for a Swansea side, who had started the evening as the joint-lowest scorers in the Premier League.
But they were handed a lifeline after Andre Ayew provided proof that he was in the mood by meeting Gylfi Sigurdsson's corner and flashing a header just wide of the post.
Three minutes later the Ghanaian broke into the box and won a dubious penalty decision after appearing to kick the floor in the act of shooting.
Wes Brown was adjudged to have made the most marginal of contact, but Sigurdsson stroked home the penalty with the minimum of fuss.
Swansea were reduced to 10 men when Naughton was punished for a 37th minute challenge on Yann M'Vila, his studs showing but the defender clearly took the ball and the theatrical reaction of the France international did him few favours.
However, Ayew almost instantly sprinted into space, shrugged off Lee Cattermole and buried a powerful low shot through the legs of Billy Jones and into the far corner of the net.
Swansea manager Alan Curtis instantly withdrew Leon Britton on the occasion of the midfielder's 500th appearance for the club as Angel Rangel filled Naughton's right-back position.
But Sunderland were level four minutes after the restart as van Aanholt's drive took a telling deflection off the back of Federico Fernandez and flew past Fabianski off a post.
Jermain Lens struck a post from a tight angle as Sunderland came on strongly and Defoe put them ahead just after the hour when he was adjudged onside from Johnson's pass and finished expertly.
Rangel was not so fortunate when he bundled the ball home after Vito Mannone had spilled Sigurdsson's deflected shot on his goal-line.
And Sunderland wrapped up the points when Defoe was again in the right place to finish van Aanholt's cross from a few yards out four minutes from time.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"I don't think I've ever seen a Premier League official look so out of his depth as Graham Scott at the Liberty Stadium tonight." - The Guardian's Stuart James on referee Graham Scott's night at the Liberty Stadium.
Lukasz Fabianski 5 (out of 10)
Kyle Naughton: 5
Federico Fernandez: 5
Ashley Williams: 5
Neil Taylor: 6
Leon Britton: 6
Ki Sung-yueng: 6
Wayne Routledge: 6
Modou Barrow: 6
Gylfi Sigurdsson: 6
Andre Ayew: 7
Angel Rangel (on for Britton 42mins): 5
Bafetimbi Gomis (on for Routledge 77mins): 5
Jack Cork (on for Ayew 90mins): 5
Vito Mannone: 6
Billy Jones: 6
John O'Shea: 7
Wes Brown: 6
Patrick van Aanholt: 8
Lee Cattermole: 7
Yann M'Vila: 7
Adam Johnson: 8
Jeremain Lens: 7
Fabio Borini: 7
Jermain Defoe: 9
Jack Rodwell (on for Cattermole 73mins): 6
Danny Graham (for Borini 83mins): 6
Duncan Watmore (for Jeremain Lens 86mins): 6
JERMAIN DEFOE: The former England striker has made a career out of scoring goals and his hat-trick gave Sunderland a huge boost in their battle against the drop. Defoe got the benefit of the linesman's flag twice but he kept his cool to finish well, and completed his hat-trick when he was once again in the right place at the right time.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Few bright moments on a desperate night for Swansea but Andre Ayew's goal which put them 2-1 ahead was a stunning piece of individual brilliance. Ayew beat Lee Cattermole as if the midfielder was not there, and then dispatched a ferocious low shot past Vito Mannone into the corner of the Sunderland net.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
It is now only one win in Alan Curtis' seven games and the storm clouds are gathering for Swansea. Maybe they did not get many breaks here, but the need to sign a reliable goalscorer in January window will prove pivotal in their battle to survive. Sunderland seem to be moving in the right direction after back-to-back wins and boss Sam Allardyce will be confident they can stay up if Jermain Defoe stays fit.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Where to start? Rookie Premier League referee Graham Scott had an interesting night to say the least. Defoe looked offside when he opened the scoring before Swansea received a fortunate penalty when Ayew fell after appearing to kick the floor. Scott then sent off Kyle Naughton even though the Swansea defender clearly won the ball, though the referee might claim his studs were showing and tackle was a dangerous one.
WHO'S UP NEXT?
Swansea v Watford (Premier League, January 18)
Tottenham v Sunderland (Premier League, January 16)