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Sunderland defeat 10-man Fulham in Premier League

LONDON -- Struggling Sunderland capitalized on the early sending-off of Brede Hangeland to beat Fulham 3-1 on Sunday, earning only its second Premier League win and easing its worries at the bottom of the table.

Steven Fletcher, Carlos Cuellar and Stephane Sessegnon all scored in the second half for the visitors while Fulham was down to 10 men, with Hangeland given a straight red card for a reckless 30th-minute tackle.

Substitute Mladen Petric equalized in the 62nd minute for the mid-table home side but it couldn't hang on at Craven Cottage, with a bad day made worse by game-ending hamstring injuries to Sweden winger Alex Kacaniklic and Costa Rica playmaker Bryan Ruiz either side of halftime.

The victory lifted Sunderland three points clear of the bottom three, with Fletcher grabbing his sixth goal of the season. Hangeland's contentious dismissal was a game-changer but was probably justified as the Norway defender leapt in rashly — and studs-first — on midfielder Lee Cattermole, even though his feet were on the floor when contact was made with the ball.

“I thought the referee was the only person in the ground who thought it was a red card ... (although) by the letter of the law, it was a red,” Fulham manager Martin Jol said.

Fulham, looking to climb to seventh with a win, had been on top by that point but the sending-off of its captain and defensive lynchpin gave Sunderland a perfect opportunity to end its five-match winless run.

“A sending-off changes the dynamic of a game,” Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill said. “We had to take advantage of that, and I thought we did. I was pleased for us to score some goals, pleased to win away from home.”

O'Neill's team came into the match as the lowest-scoring side in the league but has been kept out of the relegation zone by Fletcher, who opened the scoring in the 50th when he ran on to Adam Johnson's fine through-ball and slipped a low finish past Mark Schwarzer.

Petric equalized by turning in Damien Duff's cross and Fulham continued to create chances, only for Cuellar to reclaim the lead for Sunderland by heading in Johnson's left-wing corner. That goal was scored Fulham briefly down to nine men while Petric was receiving treatment on a deep gash in his shin.

Sessegnon made the game safe when the Benin forward smashed in a swerving shot from 25 yards, his first goal of the season — although visiting goalkeeper Simon Mignolet made superb saves from Petric and Steve Sidwell late on.

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