Sunderland boss Ricky Sbragia admitted his side had got blundering referee Rob Styles off the hook with a late blast against Stoke.

Goals from Kenwyne Jones and substitute David Healy inside the final 13 minutes at the Stadium of Light condemned Stoke to a 2-0 defeat. However, the Black Cats were fuming not to be leading at the break after Styles and his assistant missed substitute Danny Pugh's handball on the line from Steed Malbranque's 39th-minute header.

Asked if he had spoken to the referee about the incident, Sbragia said: "No, I didn't bother. He didn't give it. I am disappointed, but I don't want to get into trouble for saying what I think. We just had to get on with it and focus on the game. He didn't give it, but he is off the hook."

He added: "If it had ended 0-0, we might have complained a little bit more about it."

Mr Styles' astonishing error came 39 minutes into a tight game after Malbranque met Andy Reid's cross with a header at the far post.

Pugh, an 18th-minute replacement for the injured Andy Wilkinson, clearly handled the ball on the line, but he was spared when the official awarded only a goal-kick. The Potters were reduced to 10 men when Matthew Etherington was shown a straight red card for kicking out at Danny Collins.

Stoke boss Tony Pulis said: £There was the incident with Danny Pugh - I don't know whether he chested it or handled it - which we got away with. If it was handball, we got away with it. But the sending off changed the game."

Pulis hopes Mr Styles to look again at his decision to send Etherington off a week after Rory Delap incurred a three-match ban for his clash with Manchester City's Shaun Wright-Phillips.

Pulis said: "I am just hoping Rob Styles will have a look at the incident again.

"We had the same situation last week with Delap. I have looked at the incident and the first challenge is a free-kick against Wright-Phillips and the second one is unsporting behaviour when he kicks the ball against Wright-Phillips' legs."

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