SUNDERLAND have made a habit of coming from behind to secure points this season and for a large period at the Stadium of Light last night it looked like they were to be given a dose of their own medicine by Barnsley.

In the end the Black Cats had done just enough to avoid an embarrassing slip up that looked like it might end up with them allowing a three-goal lead to slip in the battle between two League One promotion rivals.

With 32 minutes played Sunderland looked home and dry. Aiden McGeady’s penalty was followed by Josh Maja’s excellent 12th goal of the season immediately after and Lynden Gooch grabbed a third when it looked like they might humiliate Barnsley.

But Daniel Stendel’s side fought back, never giving up, and there could have been few complaints had they actually left with a point in the end. Instead Kieffer Moore’s double, one in each half, was all they could muster.

Barnsley did have their chances, but with seven minutes remaining substitute Luke O’Nien eventually extended the lead again to keep Sunderland second and four points behind leaders Portsmouth as they enter December.

Jack Ross, the Sunderland manager, will be satisfied with that because he knows his team can still get better, and this victory ensured the unbeaten run has stretched to 14 matches having only lost once in the league this season.

To have had Max Power’s third red card of the season, picked up at Walsall on Saturday, overturned beforehand was must have been a huge bonus and they certainly started that buoyant. Not only did that mean he could retain his place alongside George Honeyman in the middle, it also meant no five-match ban to endure.

But Barnsley, with the carrot of swapping places with their opponents dangling in front of them, have been no mugs and having won three of their previous four they were full of confidence and backed by plenty fans form South Yorkshire.

Sunderland started brightly, without testing the keeper Adam Davies in the early stages. There was a surprise change of system, with Gooch asked to play more as one of three in the middle and Maja joined in attack by Chris Maguire and McGeady.

That allowed the three forwards to roam around, with Maja often finding himself wide. He was in the middle to direct a free header just wide of the near post from Reece James’ cross, which had followed an impressive passage of play that saw Sunderland switch the ball from left to right.

It then looked like Barnsley had weathered the early pressure because they were able to have two shots on goal. Cameron McGeehan’s drive flew just wide before Dimitri Cavare’s run and shot was held by Jon McLaughlin.

Sunderland’s attack immediately after led to the two-goal burst. Ethan Pinnock was penalised for going to ground in the area when he didn’t need to and conceded the penalty for a foul on McGeady. The Irish winger slotted coolly to send Davies the wrong way in the 19th minute.

Less than 60 seconds later Maja added the second with a finish of the highest order. This time Pinnock, having a spell to forget, was left red faced by the striker’s turn 25 yards from goal and Maja was able to pick out the bottom right hand corner of Davies’ net with a lovely, curling left foot shot.

Maja almost added a third but his second glancing header dropped wide of the upright again after he had been picked out by an excellent delivery from Maguire.

Sunderland didn’t have to wait long. After Gooch had cleared an effort off the line at one end, he was handed possession just outside the Barnsley box by McGeady. The American, in excellent form, side stepped his man before seeing his effort deflect into the top corner.

What should have been a game that was over as a contest there and then suddenly had a change of direction because Sunderland became complacent on the ball, and even more so when Barnsley pulled one back before the break.

McLaughin had done brilliantly to make a strong save from Moore initially, but then the Barnsley forward drilled a second opportunity low and beyond him after some hesitancy in clearing the rebound from the first.

Cauley Woodrow hit the post and Sunderland were relieved to hear the whistle for half-time because Barnsley looked certain to reduce the deficit because the home side had lost its composure. The break was required.

Even after the break Sunderland struggled to get going, even if McGeady drove and powered an effort just over early after the restart. That was short-lived.

Barnsley were not prepared to give up and they continued to put Sunderland under pressure. They forced a number of corners in quick succession.

Whether it was McLaughlin or one of his defenders in front of him, the home side were doing just enough to keep them at bay.

But Barnsley kept plugging away and, deservedly, Moore headed in from one of their many second half corners at the near post to increase the tension and nerves inside the Stadium of Light.

There were chances at both ends. O’Nien, who replaced Maja, dived to head just wide and Barnsley worked their way into the Sunderland penalty area to concern the hosts.

But, with Barnsley pressing, Sunderland finally managed to wrap up the win. George Honeyman’s run from deep led to him feeding a pass to the unmarked McGeady in the area. He rolled a pass perfectly into the path of O’Nien who had the task of sliding into finish.

There might have been a few more nervy moments than there needed to be, but Sunderland had delivered.