Will Grigg scored his first goal in a red and white shirt as Sunderland scored four in a six-goal thriller at the Stadium of Light.
The game started off a frantic pace with three goals in the first ten minutes of the game, the first half finished 2-2 as Brandon Hanlon levelled the scores. Sunderland responded with two penalties as Grigg and Aiden McGeady scored to make sure the points were safe.
After two draws on the spin Sunderland played the last of three home games on the bounce looking to end it on a positive note
After a brilliant game from the bench, Chris Maguire started in place of Charlie Wyke, Tom Flanagan replaced Jack Baldwin and Lee Cattermole returned to the team following a spell out with injury.
Grigg started up top still looking to get his first goal for the club since his deadline day move from Wigan.
Gillingham, in a relegation battle this season and sat only three points above the drop zone in 17th – striker Tom Eaves spearheaded the attack looking to put the Sunderland back line under pressure.
Sunderland were looking better Barnsley and Portsmouth in the promotion race as they both played too.
Corners suddenly have become Sunderland’s best friend, a Grant Leadbitter out swinger was flicked on and driven home by Lee Cattermole to give the lads a dream start.
Sunderland’s joy was very short lived, a minute later Gillingham were level through Tom Eaves. It was a complete lapse in concentration from the defence as a deflected cross dropped to Eaves who took it round McLaughlin to score.
The game had started at an incredible pace, from the restart Sunderland could have scored a second – Grigg drove right at the heart of the Gills defence and bundled it towards Luke O’Nien, he looked sure to score but it was deflected behind.
What was that about corners being Sunderland’s best friend? On ten minutes it was 2-1, another great ball in by Leadbitter and this time it was Flanagan who leaped the highest to head home.
Sunderland had started with confidence and were pressing the Gillingham back line every time they got a chance and the crowd were loving it.
A quarter of an hour into the game Sunderland suffered a big blow as Maguire went off injured for Lynden Gooch. The Scot had played brilliantly in the last game and deserved a starting spot.
Following Maguire’s departure, the game had calmed down with both sides slowing down the proceedings after a frantic start.
It was a game of corners as Gillingham equalised - it was swung in to the back post and Leo da Silva Lopes' blocked shot found its way to Hanlon in acres of space to score from 12 yards.
Sunderland had two lapses in concentration in the first half and they both resulted in goals. If the team was to succeed, they simply needed to be better defensively.
Moments before the break Gooch had a great chance to score as he got the ball on his right side and fired towards goal, but it was just to central and easily saved by Tomas Holy.
The visitors started the second half the stronger, Lopes’ long-range shot stung the palms of Jon McLaughlin who couldn’t hold on and was cleared into touch.
Sunderland were really struggling to create and Leadbitter came close with an effort from 30 yards that had Holy scrambling to his right as he parried it wide.
Just when Sunderland needed a break, they were given a penalty as O’Nien was clearly tripped by Lopes at the back post following a superb ball in from Reece James.
McGeady unselfishly gave the ball to Grigg who as calm as you like sent Holy the wrong way to score his first goal for the club and a much needed one too.
The lads had the chance to kill the game off as O’Nien yet again was undoubtedly fouled in the box by Regan Charles-Cook. This time McGeady stepped up and slotted it in to give the lads a two-goal cushion.
Honeyman should have made it five as McGeady did brilliantly to set up him up on the edge of the box but he couldn’t keep his effort down.
Sunderland saw the game out with ease and brought on the likes of Dylan McGeouch to calm things down in the middle of the park.
Final Score: Sunderland 4-2 Gillingham
ALS Man of the Match: Lee Cattermole