Canaries sink Black Cats
5:21pm Saturday 22nd March 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Chris Hughton's Norwich side always seem to deliver the goods when their manager's position is under threat and that proved the case once again as they outclassed 10-man Sunderland at Carrow Road.
With Barclays Premier League survival the target for both sides on show in Norfolk it was Hughton's Canaries who deservedly ran out 2-0 winners with Robert Snodgrass opening the scoring after 20 minutes.
Alexander Tettey added the second with a contender for goal of the season while Marcos Alonso was sent off late on for a second yellow card.
The Norwich players once again seemed to play for their manager, who has come under pressure in recent weeks. Victories over West Ham, Crystal Palace and Hull came at times earlier in the campaign when the strain on Hughton was at its highest and this win certainly ranks in that category.
The victory moves Norwich up to 13th and, more importantly, seven points clear of the relegation zone while Gus Poyet has a job on his hands to keep Sunderland afloat.
The hosts were on top from the off, forcing a number of set-pieces which all failed to test Vito Mannone in the Sunderland goal, with the Italian not forced into action until Jonny Howson's drive was hit straight into his arms.
The former Arsenal goalkeeper could do nothing about Snodgrass' opener after a mix-up in the Black Cats' defence.
Wes Brown failed to clear a low cross and the ball fell kindly at the feet of Johan Elmander, who calmly slotted a pass for Snodgrass to steer past Mannone and put the Canaries ahead.
Howson came close to adding a second five minutes later as the hosts continued to completely dominate, this time arrowing an effort towards the corner only to see Mannone deny him once more.
Ricky van Wolfswinkel, without a goal since the opening day draw against Everton, should have poked home a chance when Elmander's low drive across goal found the Dutchman but he could not get enough contact on the ball to turn it home from six yards out.
The second goal did not take too long to arrive and when it did it was straight out of the top drawer.
John O'Shea headed clear a cross but the dropping ball was hit on the volley by Tettey and it flashed past Mannone and into the far corner.
Poyet's reaction to falling two goals behind was to make a pair of tactical substitutions before the break, hauling off Ki Sung-yeung and Jack Colback and replacing them with Seb Larsson and Lee Cattermole.
Fabio Borini finally forced a save out of John Ruddy as he shot across the England international, who easily kept hold of the low drive - but that was the best the visitors could muster from a woeful first-half display.
Poyet sent his players out early for the second half with his words of irritation likely to still be ringing in their ears as the game got back under way.
But it was Norwich who continued where they had left off as Van Wolfswinkel's downward header from a Wes Hoolahan cross was tipped over by Mannone moments after the restart.
Brown tested Ruddy shortly afterwards as the Black Cats looked to stage an unlikely comeback, with their first real telling period of domination following.
Norwich soon stemmed the tide and the game suffered a lull in proceedings as the hosts looked to close the game out without incident.
Hoolahan came close to adding a third after a neat interchange with substitute Gary Hooper but Mannone held his shot, with Snodgrass firing a free-kick inches over the crossbar with seven minutes remaining.
Alonso, who had already been cautioned for a foul on Snodgrass, was shown a second yellow card by referee Phil Dowd in injury time.
Substitute Nathan Redmond came close at the death but it would have only added the gloss to an important win for Norwich.