Goals from Luke O’Nien and Lynden Gooch sealed a first three points for Sunderland who move up the table against fellow promotion rivals Oxford.
The first half was a relatively dull affair with neither side taking control. The second half was all Sunderland and Phil Parkinson’s men took the lead thanks to a O’Nien goal and a brilliant Gooch goal sealed the win late on.
Sunderland travelled to Oxfordshire for their first away trip of the season to play last seasons defeated playoff finalists who got off to a poor start with a 2-0 defeat to Lincoln.
With George Dobson suspended, Grant Leadbitter surprised many as he started ahead of Josh Scowen and Danny Graham made his first start since re-joining the club in place of Will Grigg.
From the outset, it was set up to be a tough game with two teams looking to be up there come the end of the season.
Sunderland came so close to taking the lead as Chris Maguire floated a ball to the back post which was met by Bailey Wright in acres of space, but the Australian’s header came back off the bar.
The lads had begun the better side, but Oxford came mightily close to opening the scoring as a ball in from the right was headed towards goal by Matty Taylor, but it just evaded Lee Burge’s left-hand post.
25 minutes into the game and the first drinks break of the season. Sunderland were heavily targeting the left-hand side of the pitch with Denver Hume and Maguire involved throughout the opening period.
Apart from two early chances for either side, it was a poor game with both teams having spells of pressure but no clear-cut chances to worry either keeper.
Despite it being a game behind closed doors that hadn’t stopped a few Sunderland fans from turning up and standing on their cars to get a vantage point over the fences at the Kassam Stadium.
With only five minutes left to play in the opening period, neither side looked like breaking the deadlock with the referee content on making it a niggly stop-start match.
Oxford had a chance with a few minutes to go as Robert Atkinson was allowed to run into the box and squared it to Sam Long whose shot was tame and easy for Burge to hold onto.
In injury time Oxford gave away a freekick right on the edge of the box and despite half of the Sunderland players staking a claim; it was Maguire who tried to get it up and over the wall but failed to do the latter as it flew over Simon Eastwood's goal.
It was a dream start to the second half for the lads – with just over a minute played the lads took the lead. Hume whipped a ball in which was pulled back to Max Power who inadvertently played it to Luke O’Nien who fired it home with a great side foot half volley.
The lads should have been two up as Hume smashed a shot towards goal which Aiden O’Brien looked to have turned home from eight yards but somehow, missed the target.
Oxford were there for the taking and O’Brien yet again missed a sitter – O’Nien’s low ball in was begging to be tapped home but the Irish forward couldn’t make any contact.
Oxford’s first chance of the half came 20 minutes into second period as Cameron Brannagan’s shot from range deflected wide of Burge’s goal.
With 20 minutes to play Charlie Wyke was brought on to replace Graham who hadn’t been able to get involved.
Sunderland were passing it about freely and could have scored a second; the ball was played into the box and nodded down by Maguire for sub Josh Scowen to hit, but he could only fire it straight into Eastwood’s gloves.
With 82 minutes on the clock, the lads wrapped up the game in some style - Lynden Gooch beat three or four yellow shirts and expertly tucked it beyond Eastwood to seal all three points.
Deep into the game and two goals up Sunderland were cruising – it had been a comfortable second half where it could have easily been more than 2-0.
Full Time: Oxford 0-2 Sunderland
ALS Man of the Match: Luke O’Nien