Lukaku aggravates Sunderland woes
On-loan Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku struck in each half as West Bromwich Albion extended Sunderland's run of Premier League games without a win to four with a 2-1 win on Saturday.
Lukaku broke the deadlock from the penalty spot 10 minutes before halftime and added a fortuitous second in the 75th minute, only for Stephane Sessegnon's immediate response to set up a nervy finale.
West Brom climbed above Liverpool and Swansea City to seventh place in the table, while Sunderland slipped to 14th, five points above the relegation zone.
Peter Odemwingie returned to the West Brom squad after his very public transfer deadline day flirtation with Queens Park Rangers and was roundly booed by the home side's supporters.
Sunderland, meanwhile, handed a first start to January signing Danny Graham in attack.
After a dreary start to proceedings at the Hawthorns, the game sprang to life in the 24th minute when Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher hit the post before working home goalkeeper Ben Foster with a follow-up effort.
Youssouf Mulumbu was then guilty of a terrible miss, the West Brom midfielder heading wide from just four yards after being picked out by Liam Ridgewell.
The hosts were controversially denied a goal in the 31st minute when an effort from Lukaku was ruled out because referee George East had already awarded a free-kick for a foul on a West Brom player.
Lukaku reacted with incredulity, but four minutes later he was celebrating.
Craig Gardner was penalised for handling a cross from Ridgewell inside the Sunderland area and Lukaku dispatched the ensuing penalty with aplomb.
Sessegnon saw a shot scrambled off the line by Mulumbu as Sunderland pushed for an equaliser early in the second period, before Graham touched wide from an Alfred N'Diaye cross.
Just after the hour, Sunderland were indebted to goalkeeper Simon Mignolet for a sharp save that prevented Lukaku from doubling his tally.
The Belgian had to thwart his countryman again moments later, but Sunderland could not keep him at bay for long as he took his haul for the season to 12 league goals.
There was more than a touch of fortune about Lukaku's second, however, the striker fortuitously deflecting Mignolet's clearance into the net after chasing down a weak Titus Bramble back-pass.
Sessegnon gave Sunderland hope with a deflected effort 10 minutes from time, before Odemwingie came on for Lukaku beneath a torrent of boos.
David Vaughan almost levelled for Sunderland at the death, but Foster claimed his deflected effort at the second attempt.