Niall Huggins’ brilliant first goal in professional football helped Sunderland to stay fourth in the Championship courtesy of a 2-0 win over Watford.
It was a goal to remember for the 22-year-old full-back, who moved from Leeds two years ago, after his thunderous effort flew in off the underside of the bar two minutes before half-time.
And this young Sunderland side went on to claim a sixth win from their last eight matches after Abdoullah Ba’s 62nd-minute header left Watford wondering when things will take a turn for the better.
The Hornets, who handed head coach Valerien Ismael a contract extension on Tuesday, have only won once since the opening weekend of the season and sit 21st.
Watford’s miserable night got worse with three minutes remaining when substitute Ryan Andrews was given a straight red card for a reckless tackle on Jack Clarke on halfway.
Huggins’ opener arrived out of the blue. Even though Sunderland controlled much of the possession for the first half an hour they had very little to show for it.
Patrick Roberts looked lively when he was on the ball but the only time the home side tested the goalkeeper was when Jobe Bellingham drove low into Daniel Bachmann’s arms.
Other than that Watford grew in confidence as the half wore on and had worked Anthony Patterson from distance too.
Tom Ince and Giorgi Chakvetadze, making his first start since moving on loan from Gent, both curled efforts into the arms of the Sunderland goalkeeper.
Just when it seemed Watford might gain an advantage a crucial two minutes arrived just before the break and ended with the home side leading.
Moments after referee Andy Davies allowed play to go on despite Sunderland captain Luke O’Nien appearing to consciously barge into Watford’s Francisco Sierralta at one end, there was a moment of brilliance at the other.
Sunderland worked their way through the lines before Huggins took over on the right. He worked his way inside, beating Chakvetadze and then Wesley Hoedt, before his rasping 18-yard drive flew in off the bar.
There were Watford complaints to the official as the two teams left the field and after the restart the visitors started the brighter without finding the net.
Sunderland created the best of the second-half chances. Dan Ballard headed over from Roberts’ back post free-kick on the hour.
Soon after that it was 2-0. When striker Mason Burstow clipped a cross to the back post, Bellingham headed back across the six-yard box where Ba was on hand to nod high into the net.
After that it became a routine night. Substitute Adil Aouchiche had an effort cleared off the line by Ryan Porteous after he ran clean through and there was no way back after Andrews saw red.