De Roon gives Boro a lifeline as Sunderland are cast adrift
Middlesbrough 1 Sunderland 0
Marten de Roon fired Middlesbrough to victory in the desperation derby as Sunderland's hopes of another remarkable Premier League escape were dealt a potentially fatal blow.
The 26-year-old Dutchman, a £12m summer signing from Atalanta, struck just nine minutes into a tense relegation showdown between the bottom two to secure a first league win since December 17 and leave the locals among a crowd of 30,742 daring to believe survival is a possibility for their club.
It remains a tall order, with Steve Agnew's men still six points adrift of safety with only four matches to go, but they are significantly better off than the Black Cats, who are six points further adrift with just a single game in hand.
Sunderland started with purpose, forcing two early corners and then prompting the game's first save when Brad Guzan had to react smartly to field Jermain Defoe's seventh-minute volley.
However, their hopes were dealt a significant blow when Boro forced their way ahead two minutes later without having to work particularly hard for it. Adam Clayton's ball over the top left defenders Billy Jones and John O'Shea trailing in De Roon's wake and he controlled with his chest before stabbing a shot past Jordan Pickford.
The Teessiders visibly grew in confidence as the Black Cats deflated and they might have doubled their lead with 20 minutes gone when Stewart Downing was denied by a vital block.
Sunderland enjoyed the better of the second half, with Defoe seeing a shot on the turn blocked as a nervy Boro retreated, although they managed to stem the tide as Agnew paced about in his technical area. Opposite number David Moyes, who had earlier been handed an FA charge over comments made to a female reporter, stood yards away seemingly powerless to halt the slide towards the Championship.