Sunderland 2 Gillingham 1
By Andy Clarke
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Sunderland are up to fourth place in the First Division after a hard fought victory over Gillingham at the Stadium of Light.
Darren Byfield's solo goal won the points for Mick McCarthy's side after Patrick Agyemang's fortuitous goal had cancelled out Sean Thornton's free-kick.
The Black Cats are now unbeaten in 18 home games in all competitions and their bright start was evidence of their burgeoning confidence.
Jeff Whitley was just off target with a powerful volley, while John Oster was unlucky not to be rewarded for his enterprising burst into the penalty area, which ended with a fine save by Steve Banks.
But the home fans didn't have to wait long for the opening goal, Thornton beating Banks with a fine curling free-kick in the 11th minute.
Kevin Kyle fired wide from 20 yards as the home side continued to force the pace, before Oster let fly from 25-yards but failed to trouble Banks.
Gillingham drew level on 28 minutes when a cross from the right struck Agyemang on the chest and wrong-footed keeper Mart Poom, the ball trickling over the line.
Byfield restored Sunderland's lead eight minutes into the second half, cutting into the penalty area and drilling a low shot underneath Banks.
Darren Williams almost added a third for the hosts with a fierce shot which crashed against the bar and down onto the line, before Paul Thirlwell dragged his shot wide when well placed in the area.