Sunderland beat Crewe 1-0 at the Stadium of Light thanks to an own goal from Luke Offord.
The home side dominated the game and possibly should have won by a bigger margin. They now have 14 points on the board from a possible 18 and keep close to the top two with a game in hand.
Crewe will be disappointed with their performance. It leaves them still in 14th place with 7 points.
Story of the match
Sunderland began the first half with plenty of intent. From the start, the wing-backs Lynden Gooch and Denver Hume pushed high up the pitch, penning Crewe back deep in their own half.
The game plan from the home side was clear - get the ball wide and launch crosses into the box. Luke O'Nien was particularly effective at getting the ball out wide. Meanwhile, Gooch was the standout performer of the first half.
The US international featured in a wing-back role and thrived in his new position. He had plenty of joy against Harry Pickering and fed the ball into the box on various occasions. Had it not been for some fine defending from Omar Beckles, Sunderland may have ran away with the game given the quality of Gooch's crosses.
Early on, Chris Maguire fed the ball into Charlie Wyke, who turned away from his marker at 18 yards, but his shot fired over the bar.
Maguire was again causing Crewe problems when he fooled Jaaskelainen in goal with a dazzling free-kick that went narrowly over.
Denver Hume kept up Sunderland's dominance from out wide by taking the ball past Perry Ng before fizzing in a cross for Wyke. The forward couldn't beat Jaaskelainen as he comfortably stopped the effort.
The Finnish goalkeeper was kept busy as moments later the home side applied more pressure. Gooch played the ball for Max Power, who dummied the ball for Wyke to play into the box before Power forced another good save from the keeper.
Crewe defended valiantly in the first half, with Omar Beckles winning countless header in the box under immense pressure from Wyke. The away side will be disappointed with the way they allowed Sunderland to completely dominate proceedings, especially given their reputation to play attractive football.
Sunderland eventually made their clear advantage count just on the stroke of half-time.
Lynden Gooch yet again got the better of Pickering before lacing in a teasing cross to the box. Wyke attempted to get on the end of it, however, he was stopped by Luke Offord. The Crewe midfielder couldn't stop the ball from going in his own net as he headed the ball past Jaaskelainen.
The second half began just as it ended, with the home side dictating the play and pinning Crewe back.
Hume yet again bombed down the left-hand side and hoisted in a fierce cross for Maguire, but the Scot couldn't bring the ball under control in a dangerous position. Moments later, Hume created an effort for Power to smash from just inside the box, but he couldn't find the target.
Crewe's outlet Mikael Mandron didn't have much luck as he was isolated throughout. He fed on scraps, with little support. He was often the recipient of long balls, but the makeshift Sunderland defence was comfortable.
Midway through the second half, Will Jaaskelainen was involved in some controversy. He erratically left his box to chase Wyke down and brought the Sunderland man down. The referee opted to brandish a yellow card, but the Fin was lucky to not be sent off.
The resulting free-kick led to a golden chance. Josh Scowen curled in a luscious ball into the box and Bailey Wright met it six yards out; his header looped over despite being unmarked.
Gooch later had a chance when he broke free in behind the defence. He attempted to chip the ball over the goalkeeper but he bravely saved the ball with his face.
Crewe did apply some late pressure to cause a few Sunderland nerves. Madron became a nuisance as he exhibited his physical presence. Despite the efforts of Perry Ng and Harry Pickering to push forward and create, the away side didn't test Lee Burge.
Sunderland made some defensive changes to run down the clock, with George Dobson and Tom Flanagan replacing Scowen and Gooch respectively. Ultimately, Sunderland's defence, as usual, dragged them over the finishing line.
Sunderland will be disappointed they did not add more goals throughout the game, but a win and three points is all that matters. Phil Parkinson will be delighted that Sunderland remain in touching distance of the top two in League One.
Sunderland are finding their stride this season. After a shaky start against Bristol Rovers, Phil Parkinson's side have been impressive in their all-round displays. Their rigid defensive performances are slowly being followed by effective attacking displays.
The way Sunderland consistently pushed Crewe back was a marker of the confidence flowing through the Sunderland team recently. The defensive solidity means that the attacking players can flourish and express themselves more freely.
This is especially important in games where the opposition are happy for Sunderland to keep the ball. At times, Sunderland struggle to break those kinds of teams down. They had no such issues in creating chances tonight.
If Charlie Wyke could claim any part of the opener, he would have two goals in as many games and his confidence would have a much-needed boost. He's struggled so far in his Sunderland career, yet his physical presence fits Parkinson's style of play.
Wyke is often criticised, but his last two performances have been impressive. Both holding the ball up and getting on the end of crosses, Wyke has been effective in his centre-forward play.
Despite creating plenty of chances, Sunderland failed to take plenty of big opportunities. Missed chances from Wyke, Maguire and Gooch are worrying when it is a constant issue. Their finishing has been fairly poor all season and this could hurt them further down the line.
Sunderland's failure to kill games off may allow more teams to take points from them against the run of play. Certainly, when facing higher quality opposition, this can be the difference between victory and defeat.