Sunderland remain in the relegation mire following a 3-1 defeat against Portsmouth.
Three goals in the space of eight minutes lit up the second half with John Utaka controversially netting for Portsmouth in the 60th-minute after Sunderland led a minute previously through Kenwyne Jones' neat finish.
Life became painful for all connected with Sunderland as two blunders resulted in Phillip Bardsley’s own goal before substitute Armand Traore added a third for the home side with two minutes remaining.
David James’ neck injury gave Asmir Begovic his chance to make his Portsmouth debut after five years and he competently gathered a low cross in the opening minute to avoid a nightmare start following such a long wait.
The drama unfolded at the other end though with Peter Crouch rising highest, which is not that difficult, to greet Glen Johnson’s cross and his first header was blocked by Anton Ferdinand, although it rebounded to the lanky striker to dispatch another, which clipped the inside of the post before being cleared off the line by a prone Sunderland player.
Previously to Crouch’s double whammy of headers, Johnson had turned Danny Collins inside out to make room for the cross.
The rickety old Fratton Park stadium was buffeted by the wind during the 90 minutes and fears over the conditions taking its toll on this match proved largely unfounded.
Begovic had to wait until the 14th-minute to justify his selection with a double save prompted by Grant Leadbitter’s shot on the slide, which the Canadian saved with his legs, and a weak effort followed from Steed Malbranque that Begovic fumbled before gathering at the second attempt.
Portsmouth had the siege gun out and this eventually resulted in Anton Ferdinand cutting his head after a collision with Crouch, as they dueled in the air but the Sunderland defender was able to continue following a some treatment.
Kenwyne Jones performed the lone striker duties for the visitors but his first touch and general passing was lacking before he remedied this with a backheel to release Richardson who poorly belted a shot over the crossbar.
The vagaries of football dictated that it was not all that long ago that the strike-force of Jones and Djibril Cisse threatened to make life comfortable for Sunderland manager Ricky Sbragia, but Cisse now finds himself on the bench and Sbragia wondering if he will be in charge next season.
This question may have been eased if Jones’ header, approaching half time, had not pinged off a post and rolled agonizingly across goal with no Sunderland player following up to apply the easiest of finishes.
Portsmouth made a double change at half time with Younes Kaboul and Armand Traore replacing Richard Hughes and Nwankwo Kanu with the latter totally invisible during his time on the pitch.
It did not take long for these changes to have an effect with Traore injecting some pace to bother Sunderland.
The usually reliable Malbranque had a moderate game which ended for him following a pull of some kind in a leg which meant Carlos Edwards joined the fray.
The longer this game went, it became evident that a slice of luck could be the route to a goal and Traore saw his shot on the slide deflect off Phillip Bardsley which dropped wide of the far post.
Sunderland took advantage of this close encounter to break the deadlock with a fine run and cross from Calum Davenport proving too good for Sol Campbell, and Jones neatly breached the goal line at the far post to score in the 59th-minute.
The Black Cats jubilation lasted for one-minute before Utaka fended off the attentions of a defender to send an angled shot beyond Marton Fulop although referee Alan Wiley appeared to blow his whistle ahead of Utaka’s equaliser.
Utaka received a yellow card for removing his shirt amidst the celebrations but such a penalty is collateral damage to a player after scoring.
Sunderland conjured up memories of the Keystone Cops as they went behind with Ferdinand kicking air as he went to clear Begovic’s goal kick to enable Utaka to glide past a prone Begovic, leaving Bardsley between a rock and a hard place and he decided to lunge in, only to send the ball into his own net.
The visitors introduced Cisse for the final 10 minutes in place of Teemu Tainio and the Frenchman flashed a volley wide of the target with the clock winding down.
Portsmouth added a third with Traore running before unleashing a left-footed shot into the far corner of the net following Utaka’s pass in the 88th minute.
Sunderland now face Chelsea on the final day of the season with the trapdoor still underfoot but a win and they will remain in the top flight.