Martin O’Neill tenure as Sunderland manager got of to the perfect start as Sebastian Larsson’s stoppage time free-kick ensured the Black Cats climbed out of the Barclays Premier League bottom three with victory over fellow strugglers Blackburn Rovers.

Simon Vukcevic’s first-half header looked to have handed Rovers their first away league win of the season.

But after Scott Dann’s headed was chalked off, David Vaughan’s long-range strike left Paul Robinson motionless and brought the scores level.

The hosts went in search of a late winner, and Larsson’s free-kick crept inside the post to give O’Neill the ideal start to his managerial career at the Stadium of Light.

After taking an early lead, Steve Kean will reflect on the decision not to allow Dann’s goal to stand after referee Peter Walton adjudged that goalkeeper Keiron Westwood had been fouled.

Despite ample Sunderland pressure, the home side found Robinson at his very best as the England stopper brilliantly kept out Keiran Richardson and substitute James McLean.

It took a flash of brilliance to beat Robinson with just seven minutes left, thumping home from 25 yards.

O’Neill’s side cranked up the pressure late on as Rovers looked to play out for a point, with Larsson curling home, making amends for his penalty miss against Wolverhampton Wanderers last week.

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