Norwich stretched their unbeaten Premier League run to eight games with victory over Sunderland to heap more pressure on Martin O’Neill.
The Canaries have improved after a slow start under Chris Hughton and haven’t tasted defeat since a 4-1 reverse against Chelsea at the start of October.
In stark contrast to their hosts the Wearsiders just can’t seem to buy a win at the moment and a sixth defeat in their last nine leaves them just a place and point outside the bottom three.
Despite the loss O’Neill, who celebrates his first anniversary as boss on Monday, can take heart from a spirited second half display from his side, although his record of two wins in 22 league games is similar to the one that got predecessor Steve Bruce the sack 12-months ago.
And Norwich were quick to capitalise on the visitors’ defensive uncertainty and took just eight minutes to break the deadlock, former Newcastle defender Sebastien Bassong stealing in at the back post to bundle Robert Snodgrass’ free kick into the net.
Sunderland barely looked like threatening goalkeeper Mark Bunn, standing in for the injured John Ruddy, and were dealt another blow as the hosts doubled their lead in the 37th minute with a superb team goal.
A move involving 29 passes ended with Anthony Pilkington latching on to a defence splitting pass from Bradley Johnson, shrugging off the attention of Carlos Cuellar and cooly slotting the ball past Simon Mignolet.
That seemed to jolt O’Neill’s men from their perpetual slumber and Craig Gardner gave them hope of a second half comeback, lashing the ball beyond Bunn from 20-yards after being teed up by Adam Johnson just before the break.
Despite improving after the restart they just couldn’t fashion an equaliser and centre back Matt Kilgallon squandered their best opportunity when he fired over an empty net from 10 yards after Gardner’s free kick struck the post.