Sunderland's win at Fulham can kick-start season - Martin O'Neill

O'Neill relieved by 'big win'

Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill says the victory over Fulham will act as a springboard for his struggling side.

The 3-1 win over 10-man Fulham was only Sunderland's second Premier League win of the season. But having played seven of their 11 league games away from home, O'Neill was full of optimism.

"It's massive," he told BBC Sport.

"We have only played four games at home in the league, so there hasn't been much balance. We are looking forward to getting back to the Stadium of Light."

Four of Sunderland's next five league games are at home, with West Brom, Queens Park Rangers, Chelsea and Reading set to visit Wearside.

The Black Cats will be hoping to improve on the five points they have earned from their four top-flight games at home so far this season and move away from the relegation zone.

"There is a good feeling in the dressing room," said O'Neill. "The players have never lost spirit. To win the game was great for us.

"We've got back-to-back home games now so it's something we can build on. We'll take a lot of confidence from that and keep working and try to climb the table."

The defining moment at Craven Cottage came after 30 minutes when Fulham defender Brede Hangeland was shown a red card for a reckless two-footed challenge on Lee Cattermole.

Steven Fletcher put the visitors ahead shortly after half-time, and although Mladen Petric brought Fulham level, goals from Carlos Cuellar and Stephane Sessegnon secured the points for O'Neill's side.

Sunderland had only scored seven goals in 10 top-flight matches before the win at Fulham, which yielded the most goals they have managed in any game this season.

O'Neill's side have struggled to create chances and have been reliant on Fletcher, who has scored six of their goals, so the fact that two more of his players got on the scoresheet will also please the Black Cats boss.

On the dismissal of Hangeland, Cattermole said referee Lee Probert had got the day's big decision right. "I thought it was two-footed and the rules say that you can't do that. I don't think it was too bad but you can't do that."

Fulham manager Martin Jol disagreed with Cattermole's assessment. "The red card was their luck but that happens in football," he said.

"I felt as though [Hangeland] went for the ball, he was not over the ball, it was under the ball and then he slipped. By the letter of the law the referee was within his rights to give it but I think he was probably the only man at Craven Cottage who thought it was a red card. It was not a red card."