Sunderland 1 Charlton Athletic 3

Bent hands Sunderland wake-up call

"I've just told Mick McCarthy that it's a long season and this is just one week," revealed Alan Curbishley after comforting his opposite number following his side's first away victory since January, achieved despite playing the last 35 minutes with 10 men.

McCarthy chalked up a 10th consecutive Premiership defeat as Sunderland manager, a wretched record overshadowed only by the 16 his side have now suffered at this level, the previous 15 inflicted as they suffered relegation two years ago.

If the hosts needed any reminding that this could prove to be a tortuous return to the pinnacle of English football, Darren Bent and his nine team-mates duly provided them with it.

Sunderland's shortcomings were exposed by seasoned though hardly spectacular top-flight campaigners, as they failed to exploit the numerical advantage they belatedly enjoyed courtesy of the fully-merited straight red card earned by Darren Ambrose for an over-the-top challenge on Stephen Wright, in an unedifying end to the England Under-21 inter-national's debut.

It was an altogether more productive afternoon for his close friend Bent, who overcame a dead leg sustained in training 24 hours earlier, to score twice in his first Premiership appearance since a £2.5m move from Ipswich Town.

The first arrived after 11 minutes with Sunderland in disarray and fortunate not to ship four goals in the opening half-hour.

Charlton had to settle for Bent's unflustered finish, after he sprung Sunderland's pedestrian offside trap to thread a shot under Kelvin Davis at the second attempt after the keeper had stood up well to his former Ipswich team-mate.

The striker's second arrived in injury-time as he raced 40 yards to plant an angled drive into the bottom corner, making the most of the gaps Sunderland inevitably left in search of an equaliser.

Sandwiched in between was Danny Murphy's stunning free-kick from the edge of the area 26 minutes from time, following a clumsy foul on Bent by Steve Caldwell.

"Darren had ice on his leg all the way up here after getting caught by Matt Holland in training, so it was a great finish to get him going," added Curbishley, who had few complaints with Ambrose's early departure.

He added: "We needed to stifle them from the start which we did, so I'm delighted with the way we've played. We had enough chances to win but at 1-1 and down to 10 men I was thinking it was going to be someone else's day."

Sunderland exhibited plenty of the spirit that propelled them to the Championship title in May, and another debut goal, this one by Andy Gray, who poked home a close-range rebound after Stephan Andersen saved a Dean Whitehead shot, looked likely to end the hosts' unwanted top-flight record.

However, events conspired against the Scot grabbing the headlines 48 hours after sealing a £1.1m move from Sheffield United, and McCarthy said: "It was a mixed performance. They caused us problems but we matched them for long periods and got back into it.

"It's going to be a learning curve for us, we'll have to suck it and see. We gave the ball away easily and didn't make the most of the man advantage, then got caught with the sucker-punch at the end."

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