TEENAGER Josh Maja emerged from the bench to deliver the crucial blow that finally ended Sunderland’s long wait for a win at the Stadium of Light.

The 18-year-old, who had not appeared in the Championship before, scored the decisive goal with 13 minutes remaining to secure the three points that lifted the Black Cats out of the relegation zone.

Maja’s intervention, coupled with further defensive resilience, meant Sunderland have finally won on home turf – just a day shy of going a full calendar year without doing so.

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The loud noise from the fans at the final whistle highlighted what it meant to the Sunderland supporters, while Chris Coleman can focus on building on the team’s progress since taking over rather than worry about the hoodoo.

It was Coleman’s brave move to throw Maja on as well as Joel Asoro with the scoreline goalless, just five minutes before he struck too.

Sunderland, without the suspended Lee Cattermole, were clearly buoyed by their performance and result a week earlier at Wolves because they passed the ball around confidently all afternoon.

It was a pretty even contest, though, with Fulham just as likely to get the breakthrough as Sunderland and it took until approaching the half hour mark before there was any real danger to either goal.

Tyias Browning was excellent as part of a three-man defence alongside John O’Shea and Marc Wilson, highlighting why it took so long for Fulham to actual threaten Robbin Ruiter’s goal.

However they still carved out the better of the openings before the break. Oliver Norwood had already headed wide from a Rui Fonte cross before two fantastic openings before the break.

Sheyi Ojo played an excellent pass in behind the defence for Tom Cairney to run through to, but Browning got across to block the effort when a goal looked on the cards.

When the Sunderland defend was beaten seconds later goalkeeper Robbin Ruiter was on hand to deny Stefan Johansen at his near post.

Sunderland also had a couple of decent chances too. Fulham’s Marcus Bettinelli saved long range efforts from George Honeyman and Darron Gibson.

And when Bettinelli stood no chance before the break he was thankful Lewis Grabban got his judgement wrong. The on loan striker from Bournemouth moved ahead of his marker before flicking Adam Matthews’ delivery wide.

After the restart Sunderland fans were left wondering how they hadn’t taken an early lead. James Vaughan saw a volley on the turn stopped on the line before the Fulham keeper made an incredible stop moments later.

When Matthews’ cross was sent in, Vaughan did well to climb above his marker and direct a strong header at goal. Bettinelli hardly had any time to think but still managed to flick the ball up and against the bar.

He then made a save to prevent Lynden Gooch from scoring and Grabban could only turn the loose ball wide as the Stadium of Light crowd started to sense this could be their day.

But after that clear cut chances were few and far between, so Coleman made the decision to throw on youngsters Maja and Asoro and within five minutes it did the trick.

Despite replacing top-scorer Grabban, teenager Maja controlled Matthews’ pass before turning his marker and calmly slotting low and beyond Bettinelli – and Sunderland had the task of retaining that lead for the final 13 minutes and did so.

SUNDERLAND (5-3-2): Ruiter; Love, O’Shea, Browning, Wilson, Matthews; Gibson, Honeyman, Gooch (Ndong 67); Grabban (Maja 72), Vaughan (Asoro 72). Subs(not used): Steele (gk), Galloway, McGeady, McManaman.

FULHAM (4-3-3): Bettinelli; Fredericks, Kalas (La Torre 86), Ream, Sessegnon; McDonald, Cairney, Norwood (Graham 72); Ojo, Johansen, Fonte (Kamara 78). Subs (not used): Button (gk), Odoi, Djalo, Cisse.