Jamie Vardy edged Leicester City closer to their first top flight title, whilst consigning Sunderland further into the relegation scrap as the visitors produced a smash and grab performance in the North East.
Stalemate thanks to Schmeichel save in a scrappy start
The nerves were clear to see for both parties, as a scrappy encounter ensued in the opening 45 minutes. Leicester began the game at a high pace but struggled to get any change from a Sunderland defence that looked prepared to scrap for their Premier League survival.
Leicester captain Wes Morgan had the best chance of the half when he leapt highest for a free header from a corner, but could only glance his effort wide. N'golo Kante had the visitors' only shot on target with a weak long range drive, as the hosts were only able to create one of their own. Fabio Borini latched onto some great work by Jermain Defoe on the right flank, but his deflected shot was kept out by the legs of Kasper Schmeichel.
Both sides had penalty appeals waved away by Michael Oliver, the correct decision it seemed on each occasion. Shinji Okazaki fell to the ground under pressure from DeAndre Yedlin but the contact looked minimal, while Robert Huth and Younes Kaboul each saw the ball struck against their arms at either end, but penalties on both occasions would have been harsh.
Leicester steal a winner, the sign of Champions?
Sunderland came out the better team in the second half as Borini saw two efforts float wide; one deflected from a corner and the other after latching onto a rebound from a Defoe strike. The visitors gradually grew back into the game as Vardy picked out Danny Drinkwater, but the England midfielder could not take the ball under his spell when pressurised by Yedlin.
Yet we have all learnt to write Leicester off at our peril this season. After creating virtually nothing all game, Drinkwater picked out Vardy with a long ball over the top of the Sunderland defence, a move that had been dealt with by Kaboul for the previous 65 minutes. Though this time Vardy found space and was through on Vito Mannone's goal. There was only going to be one outcome as the league leaders' top goal-scorer curled the ball into the back of the net.
The hosts looked shell-shocked as they struggled to respond for several minutes and Leicester began to run the game for the first time all afternoon. Defoe eventually lashed an effort over the crossbar, but it was substitute Jack Rodwell who had a golden chance to equalise. The midfielder was picked out in acres of space just eight yards out, but could only curl his effort wide with just Schmeichel to beat.
With Sunderland pushing to keep themselves in the survival hunt, they inevitably left space at the back, as Leonardo Ulloa found himself in space, but he could only clip his effort straight at Mannone.
With five minutes to play, the Drinkwater and Vardy combination linked up again as the midfielder cut the ball back to his teammate, only for Mannone to keep out Vardy's placed effort with a stretched hand. Daniel Amartey was also kept out by Mannone, but Vardy eventually sealed the three points as he powered past Patrick van Aanholt and skipped past the exposed 'keeper before slotting the ball into the back of the net.
The result sent Leicester 10 points clear with Tottenham Hotspur still to play, whilst Sunderland remain four points from safety with a game in hand and only six games left in their season.