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3 things we learned from Sunderland's surprising 3-1 win away to Crystal Palace

Sunderland were excellent in a rare away win against Crystal Palace, though the referee helped them out.

Clive Rose

Sunderland finally have their first away win of the Premier League season, at the expense of Crystal Palace. The home side will feel a bit cheated by the officiating at Selhurst Park on Monday night, but they certainly didn't defend well enough to prevent the Black Cats from notching a 3-1 win.

Just 30 seconds into the game, the Eagles should have had a penalty. Santiago Vergini hacked down Frazier Campbell in the box and got nowhere near the ball, but referee Phil Dowd thought differently and let play continue.

Steven Fletcher got Sunderland on the board first, with a perfectly placed header in the 31st minute. He was able to peel off the Palace defenders, drifting backwards in the box to make himself available for a cross by Patrick van Aanholt that he directed perfectly past Julian Speroni to the Palace keeper's right. He was screened, and couldn't see the ball fast enough to attempt a save.

Just a minute later, Palace thought they deserved a penalty yet again, and they were probably right. Van Aanholt tried to make a tackle on Wilfried Zaha, but missed the ball by an even greater distance than Vergini did in the first minute and injured his shoulder on the play. Again, Dowd was unwilling to give a spot kick.

Sunderland had a couple more chances before the break, but couldn't extend their lead. Speroni made a pair of good saves, first on Fletcher in the 40th minute, then on an uncharacteristically good volley by Vergini in stoppage time.

Van Aanholt's replacement, Wes Brown, was a hero for Sunderland when he blocked a Zaha shot in the 47th minute, but he became a goat not long afterwards. After Costel Pantilimon made a brilliant stop on a Marouane Chamakh header, Brown tried to clear the follow-up backheel by Campbell and instead placed a perfect diving header into the back of his own net.

But Sunderland were well on top from there, and were back ahead in the 79th minute through Jordi Gomez. Will Buckley beat his man down the right flank and picked a perfect pass into the center for Gomez, who wasn't closed down and placed an impressive low shot to the back post, restoring his team's lead.

Palace's chances of coming back were dashed in the 87th minute when Mile Jedinak was sent off for a second bookable offense, and they gave up a third goal while pushing hard for an equalizer with 10 men. The Black Cats capitalized on a turnover by Campbell in stoppage time, with substitute Liam Bridcutt finding Fletcher, who finished off the move to seal the win for Sunderland.

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Ward, Hangeland (Gayle 84'), Dann, Kelly, Bolasie, Ledley, Jedinak (red 87'), Zaha, Chamakh (Puncheon 76'), Campbell

Goals: Brown (OG 55')

Sunderland: Pantilimon, van Aanholt (Brown 37'), O'Shea, Vergini, Reveillere, Cattermole, Wickham (Altidore 78'), Larsson, Gomez, Buckley (Bridcutt 82'), Fletcher

Goals: Fletcher (31', 90'), Gomez (79')

3 things

1. Will Buckley is a hidden gem -- Throughout the match, Sunderland's most consistent attacking threat was right winger Will Buckley. He was purchased from Brighton for under £3m in the summer and he's turned out to be an excellent value signing, taking little time to make the step up to Premier League level. He's the kind of under-the-radar find that keeps teams like Sunderland in the Premier League.

2. The Palace goal was art -- Seriously, watch it. It's unbelievable. Yannick Bolasie's cross, Costel Pantilimon's save, Frazier Campbell's backheel, Wes Brown's finish on his own goal and Pantilimon's reaction are all spectacular. This is one of the best plays of the season.

3. Sunderland only had a chance because of Phil Dowd -- Yes, Sunderland's performance was great, but Palace should have been given a penalty in the first minute. It was a stonewaller. By being afraid of altering the game, Dowd altered the game.