The Black Cats left it late to snatch victory with David Vaughan’s superb long range strike cancelling out Simon Vukcevic’s first half goal before Larsson stepped up to curl a brilliant free kick past Paul Robinson in stoppage time to break Rovers’ hearts. The look of despair in the away dugout said it all as boss Steve Kean looked bemused at the fact his side threw away their slender lead with just minutes left on the clock. The coach turned manager barely even glimpsed at the adjacent bench with O’Neill leading the charge as he celebrated victory in his first game as Sunderland boss. However it could have been so different had his side not perked up in the dying minutes with Blackburn threatening to ruin his big day as they took an early lead through Vukcevic and looked set to claim their first away win of the season until Vaughan and Larsson struck late on to send the 319 Rovers fans home unhappy once again.
It was the hosts who came out brightly in the early stages with the Black Cats looking to bounce back following their defeat at Wolves seven days ago. Left back Phil Bardsley went close volleying over the bar from the edge of the area before Blackburn had a penalty shout turned down after Yakubu tumbled under a challenge from the returning Titus Bramble. The visitors gradually started to get themselves into the game and took a surprise lead on 17 minutes with Vukcevic heading into an empty net after Kieron Westwood parried Christopher Samba’s drive into the midfielders path. Sunderland responded immediately and Kieron Richardson should have equalised but was brilliantly denied by Robinson after meeting Stephane Sessegnon’s cross. Richardson then snapped a shot wide of before the away side had a goal ruled out after referee Peter Walton adjudged Samba had fouled Westwood before Scott Dann headed the ball into the net.
Sunderland retained their tempo after the break but just couldn’t put the ball into the Blackburn net with Larsson curling a 35-yard free kick wide before Richardson hit the near post from a corner. David Dunn then threatened for the visitors firing over from long range before Robinson came to his sides rescue keeping out efforts from Richardson and Sessegnon as the home side became frustrated. It would take something brilliant to beat the former Tottenham goalkeeper and Vaughan duly delivered smashing the ball into the top corner from 25-yards as the Stadium of Light breathed a collective sigh of relief. It got even better for the Red and White army and O’Neill as he leapt up from his technical area once again after Larsson curled a magnificent free kick into the Rovers net to keep them firmly rooted in the bottom three and lift Sunderland up to 16th.