Kenwyne Jones and David Healy fired Sunderland to a vital 2-0 Barclays Premier League victory over 10-man Stoke to spare referee Rob Styles' blushes.
Jones struck 13 minutes from time and substitute Healy added a second in injury time after Styles failed to award a penalty and send off defender Danny Pugh for handling Steed Malbranque's header on the line before the break.
However, Potters substitute Henri Camara might earlier have put the visitors ahead when he hit the bar from close range two minutes after Matthew Etherington's 64th-minute dismissal for kicking out at Danny Collins.
The drama began as Andy Reid's chipped cross begged Malbranque to head home at the far post and he would have succeeded had Pugh not instinctively thrown out a hand and blocked his effort.
But the referee awarded only a goal-kick to an incredulous response from virtually everyone else inside the stadium. Television replays of the incident suggested the ball had crossed the line anyway.
Abdoulaye Faye just prevented Collins from connecting with a 57th-minute Reid free-kick at the far post and Stoke's problems increased substantially seven minutes later. Etherington and Collins tangled off the ball and the midfielder was dismissed for kicking out at the defender.
But the 10 men almost snatched the lead two minutes later when Camara drilled the ball against the crossbar in the midst of a goalmouth scramble.
Sunderland's Djibril Cisse and substitute Carlos Edwards sent powerful volleys across goal but the breakthrough finally came with 13 minutes remaining.
Jones climbed high at the back post to meet Reid's cross and send a downward header past Thomas Sorensen.
The striker then turned provider at the death for Healy to cement the win and kill off Stoke's resistance.
Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.
Do YOU want to write for GiveMeSport? Get started today by signing-up and submitting an article HERE: http://gms.to/writeforgms