Romelu Lukaku’s brace gives West Brom a 2-1 victory against a resilient Sunderland at the Hawthorns.
Lukaku followed up his 35th minute penalty with one of the luckiest goals of the season as he charged down a Simon Mignolet clearance in the 74th minute.
Sunderland pulled one back with eleven minutes left on the clock through a composed finish from Stephane Sessegnon but it was not enough to rouse the Mackems into an equaliser.
The game began slowly enough with neither side creating much until the 24th minute when Claudio Yacob was caught on the ball on the edge of his own area. Danny Graham nipped in and gave the ball to Steven Fletcher on the edge of the area but his side footed effort hit the post.
This must have sprung West Brom into life as they began to create chances of their own. In the 30th minute, Lukaku had a goal disallowed after the referee had blown the whistle for a free-kick on James Morrison before the Belgian had slotted past Mignolet.
Just minutes later and a cross from Liam Ridgewell hit the arms of Craig Gardner and the referee pointed to the spot despite Sunderland’s protests. Lukaku passed the ball low to the right and sent Mignolet the wrong way.
Sunderland felt they should have had a penalty of their own after a similar incident involved Adam Johnson’s shot being blocked by what appeared to be the arm of Gareth McCauley but the referee gave a corner.
In the second half, Sunderland came out fighting and had the first chance of the half in the 50th minute as a corner was missed by everybody except Sessegnon at the far post. He had only moments to react and he stuck out a foot but could only direct the ball to Youssuf Mulumbu on the post who cleared off the line.
This again shook West Brom into a reaction and again through Lukaku. The Belgian bullied his way past O’Shea and then Gardner before lacing the ball just wide of the post.
The Belgian striker was again denied in the 70th minute as he cut inside from the right and slammed the ball towards the goal but Mignolet was able to beat the ball away.
Lukaku’s second came in the 74th minute after he powered past O’Shea on the halfway line only to find Titus Bramble mopping up. His weak backpass gave Lukaku the chance to chase down Mignolet and as the goalkeeper cleared, the ball ricocheted off the striker and into the back of the net for his 12th of the season.
Sessegnon then pulled one back for Sunderland in the 79th minute as he was able to control a poor clearance inside the area before calmly finishing into the top corner.
Sunderland continued to pile on the pressure but were unable to find a way past Foster. Then, deep into stoppage time, James Mclean leant back and mishit a half-volley just yards out from goal and sent the ball over the crossbar.
West Brom go up to seventh with 40 points having deserved this win but Sunderland will be disappointed having had the chances to get something from the game.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Romelu Lukaku (West Bromwich Albion): The Belgian continues to grow in stature - though one goal was a penalty and the other a fluke, his influence was huge.
WEST BROM: Foster 7, Reid 6, McAuley 6, Olsson 6, Ridgewell 7, Morrison 7, Yacob 7, Mulumbu 7, Brunt 7, Lukaku 9, Long. SUBS: Odemwingie 6, Fortune 6, Dorrans 6.
SUNDERLAND: Mignolet 7, Gardner 6, Colback 6, O'Shea 5, Bramble 4, N'Diaye 6, Larsson 5, Johnson 6, Sessegnon 8, Graham 6, Fletcher 6. SUBS: Vaughan 6, McClean 6.