SUNDERLAND opened a four-point gap at the top of FA Women’s Super League 2 after goals from Kelly McDougall and Hayley Sharp downed Oxford United.

McDougall’s first-half penalty and Sharp’s late header condemned Oxford to a fifth straight defeat in all competitions.

Sunderland almost got off to the best possible start, but Keira Ramshaw could only prod the ball onto the bar from a dangerous Victoria Greenwell cross.

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Soon after Abby Holmes was brought down in the box, which left McDougall to slot home into the bottom right corner for the Lady Black Cats.

Rebekah Bass flashed a shot narrowly wide towards the end of the half, before Oxford’s Katie Stanley came closest for the U’s with a powerful drive.

The visitors started the second half brightly, and on 53 minutes, Lauren Allison very nearly turned in Helen King’s cross, before King herself nodded over from a corner.

But the home side grew back into the game and doubled their lead in the 78th minute, as Sharp rose high to nod in the second from a corner to secure all three points.

Sophie Williams rattled the crossbar at the death as Sunderland controlled the closing stages, but the hosts couldn’t add to their tally.

DURHAM coach Andy Thorpe was left frustrated at the final whistle after his side missed the opportunity to claim a major scalp against Doncaster.

Doncaster missed a host of chances against struggling Durham, so it’s advantage Sunderland at the top of the WSL2 after Sue Smith’s side struggled to a third successive draw.

In a frantic finale, Doncaster should have sealed the points — but Ashleigh Mills shook the bar with a stunning effort, while Jordan Atkinson and Zoe Ness flashed two shots wide for Durham.

“As a team we worked really hard for 90 minutes,” Thorpe said. “We worked individually and as a team.

“We set ourselves out with nothing to lose, they had more to lose today, so we went out to give it our best shot.

“There are a couple of players who stood out, but against second in the league, it’s got to be a team effort. They all put a shift in for each other.

“At the end, my heart was in my mouth the whole time.

They hit the bar and then we had two or three chances to finish it. I think at the end it was going to be one of those games where either team could’ve nicked it.

“It was probably a fair result.

Both teams played as well as each other.

“We’ve worked really hard in the last four to six weeks, stepping up the training.

“Today proves that.”