(Reuters) - Middlesbrough gave themselves a lifeline and virtually condemned north-east rivals Sunderland to relegation with Marten de Roon’s early goal earning a 1-0 win.
The Riverside Stadium basement battle was a torrid affair and De Roon settled it after eight minutes when he stabbed a shot through the legs of Sunderland keeper Jordan Pickford.
Second-bottom Boro hung on for their first league victory of 2017 to move to within six points of 17th placed Hull City.
Sunderland are 12 points adrift of Hull with only five games remaining and their cause looking hopeless.
Their 10-year stay in the top flight will come to an end at the weekend if they lose at home to Bournemouth and Hull pick up a point at Southampton.
They would also drop down if they lose to Bournemouth and 18th-placed Swansea beat Manchester United on Sunday.
“While there’s a chance, we’ll keep going. Good performances lead to results, that’s the way it goes. I think we’ve had a couple of pretty good performances in the last few games,” Sunderland manager David Moyes said.
“We know our position, we’re not daft, we know exactly where we are. We have to try and pick up every win.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman,; Editing by Neville Dalton and Toby Davis