Juan Carlos Menseguez is delighted with his first goal for West Brom
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer at The Hawthorns
West Bromwich Albion secured a vital victory to keep their slim hopes of Premier League survival alive - and leave a desperately disappointing Sunderland still fearing for their top-flight future.
Albion knew defeat would effectively rubber-stamp their return to the Championship, while Sunderland were in search of the victory that would push them further away from the danger zone.
And it was the Baggies who came out on top in comfort, with Jonas Olsson sweeping home the opener from Jonathan Greening's corner just before the interval and Chris Brunt grabbing the second from close range.
Substitute Juan Carlos Menseguez emphasised West Brom's supremacy with an emphatic finish two minutes from time as Sunderland went down tamely in the front of their noisy travelling support.
And Sunderland's fans made their feelings plain to their team at the final whistle, delivering a resounding raspberry in their direction as Albion supporters clung to the faint hope that they might still witness Premier League football next term.
West Brom's win - their first in 12 games - is, in reality, probably no more than a brief act of defiance unless they can produce the sort of miracle that saw them stay up under Bryan Robson in 2005.
Sunderland's Kieran Richardson played a pivotal role in West Brom's great escape that season during a spell on loan from Manchester United, but he was powerless to influence events here as Rick Sbragia's side produced a display to give encouragement to all the clubs chasing them.
The Black Cats, despite knowing the stakes were high, were desperately short on inspiration and invention, ending well beaten as Albion were even able to indulge in short spells of possession football.
Mowbray not giving up on survival
And, with great irony, Sunderland are now one of the teams who could provide a late escape route to safety for arch-rivals Newcastle, who play Portsmouth at home on Monday.
Sunderland posed the first threat of a mediocre first half when Andy Reid's cross evaded Olsson, but striker Djibril Cisse could not react quickly enough to take advantage.
Reid's delivery from out wide posed another problem for the Baggies after 29 minutes when keeper Scott Carson could only punch his cross on the head of the incoming Carlos Edwards, but he diverted his finish over the bar.
And Carson produced the best save of the half six minutes later when Richardson was afforded time and space by the West Brom defence. He struck a swerving 25-yard drive that was acrobatically turned away by Carson to his right.
West Brom took the lead five minutes before the interval, with a goal that incensed the travelling Sunderland support.
Their noisy protests suggested they felt Greening had placed the ball incorrectly for a corner - and their sense of injustice was made more acute when Sunderland failed to clear the flag kick and Olsson swept home the finish.
Albion boss Tony Mowbray made two changes during the interval, sending on Youssouf Mulumbu and Shelton Martis for Jay Simpson and Abdoulaye Meite.
Sbragia downcast after 'worst' display
Sunderland boss Sbragia responded with two changes of his own, with Dean Whitehead and Steed Malbranque replacing Reid and Edwards.
But it was West Brom who gained greater momentum from the changes and they doubled their advantage after 58 minutes when Brunt made a perfectly-timed arrival to steer in Marc-Antoine Fortune's cross.
Cisse then missed Sunderland's best chance when he diverted Teemu Tainio's shot over the bar from six yards.
And as time ran out, Albion added to Sunderland's misery with a third, Mensequez scoring on the turn after good work by Brunt.
It may be too late for the Baggies - but the body language of Sunderland's players as they trooped off illustrated the size of the worries facing boss Sbragia.
West Brom boss Tony Mowbray:
"For me it is about the next game, not the bigger picture. It is an almost impossible job that we face but strange things can happen in football.
"We now move on to Tottenham. If we can win that game, then we have got Wigan at home.
"If we win that, maybe you will all write that the great escape can happen again as it did four years ago."
Sunderland boss Ricky Sbragia:
"We were so poor overall. We seemed to have 11 individuals out there. We got what we deserved - absolutely nothing.
"It is hard to explain the way we played. We didn't turn up. Our decision making was poor.
"I feel sorry for the fans because in the last week they have seen two different sides to us. This was the worst side and we look disinterested."
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