Sunderland bolster survival chances with derby win over Newcastle
Newcastle United's Moussa Sissoko (left) vies with Sunderland's Fabio Borini during the English Premier League match at St James' Park in Newcastle upon Tyne, on February 1, 2014. Sunderland won 3-0. - by Ian MacNicol
Gus Poyet's side won for the sixth time in their last eight games to climb further clear of danger as they made it three consecutive league victories in this fixture for the first time since 1923.
It is a different story for Alan Pardew, as the Newcastle manager suffered a third straight loss in the battle for northeast bragging rights.
League Cup finalists Sunderland took control with two goals in the space of four minutes mid-way through the first half as Liam Bridcutt, signed just 24 hours earlier from Brighton and Hove Albion, enjoyed a fine debut in midfield.
The opening goal came from the penalty spot in controversial circumstances, after Vurnon Anita was harshly adjudged to have brought down Phil Bardsley in the area as the defender chased a pass from Johnson.
Fabio Borini quickly grabbed the ball, leading to not entirely harmonious discussions with Ki Sung-yeung and Jozy Altidore, who clearly both felt that they had stronger claims to take the kick.
Their arguments failed to sway the Italian, whose confidence was not misplaced as he found the top-left corner to score for the second time against Newcastle this season, following his winner at the Stadium of Light in October.
Borini's fifth goal of the season was the first in Sunderland's last eight in the Premier League that Johnson had not either scored or set up, but the winger set the record straight in the 23rd minute.
Jack Colback was sent sprinting into the Newcastle area by a deft flick from Altidore and when the midfielder's deflected shot was well saved by Tim Krul, Johnson poked home to score his sixth goal in his last four league games.
It might have been different for Newcastle had Mathieu Debuchy been more accurate with an early close-range shot on the turn that flashed across the face of goal.
That turned out to be Newcastle's only chance of note in the first hour, as Pardew's side clearly felt the absence of the departed Yohan Cabaye following the French midfielder's move to Paris Saint-Germain.
Home supporters broke into a chorus of 'Where are the signings, Joe Kinnear?' as Newcastle's director of football came under scrutiny for his lack of activity during the January transfer window.
By the end of the contest, there had been three separate incidents of a home supporter going onto the pitch to register a protest.
The Tyneside club's only arrival last month, Luuk de Jong, unsurprisingly came off the bench at the outset of the second half for his debut following a loan move from the German side Borussia Moenchengladbach.
The Dutch international forward failed to rise much above the abject level seen from his team-mates, however, and Newcastle-born Colback came close to making it 3-0 on the hour when his low shot from the edge of the area sped inches wide.
With 25 minutes left, Cheick Tiote called Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone into action for the first time, with Shola Ameobi heading over from the resulting corner.
However, Sunderland were by no means under the cosh, and after Johnson struck the foot of the post with a curling effort, Colback scored with a rising drive in the 80th minute to complete victory.