Fulham 1 Sunderland 4
A hat-trick from Adam Johnson condemned Fulham to another home defeat and leaves them deep in the relegation mire.
Johnson put Sunderland in front against the run of play after 28 minutes, curling a free-kick through the grasp of Fulham keeper David Stockdale.
The visitors doubled their lead from another Johnson set-piece, the winger cutting the ball back to Ki Sung-Yeung, whose drive was deflected in.
Fulham reduced the arrears early in the second half when Steve Sidwell headed home Damien Duff’s corner.
But Sunderland ended up romping home, Johnson sweeping in from Ki’s sublime pass before adding a late penalty as Jozy Altidore tumbled in the box.
The result lifts Gus Poyet’s side off the bottom of the Premier League and they are now only two points behind Fulham, who suffered their fifth defeat in seven home matches.
However, as convincing as the scoreline may look, Fulham will point to key refereeing decisions which went against them.
There didn’t appear to be much contact on Johnson when he tumbled over Steve Sidwell’s challenge before curling home the free-kick, nor when Altidore fell over the leg of Philippe Senderos.
But in truth Fulham were a shadow of the side they have been at times under Rene Meulensteen.
They dominated possession and territory early on but couldn’t make their few chances count, with an unmarked Dimitar Berbatov somehow slicing wide from Sascha Riether’s cross.
Sunderland, who had been happy to soak up pressure initially, gradually worked their way into the game, Phil Bardsley forcing Stockdale into a save.
And it wasn’t long before the Black Cats went in front, although Stockdale will be disappointed he didn’t keep out Johnson’s free-kick having got both hands to it.
The visitors doubled their lead just before the break as Johnson pulled a free-kick back for Ki, whose shot went in via Senderos.
With the words of Meulensteen still ringing in their ears, Fulham emerged a more coherent attacking force in the second half and Sidwell gave the home fans hope when he nodded home on 52 minutes.
But Fulham, who started Clint Dempsey for the first time since his loan move from Seattle Sounders, couldn’t find their way through a crowded central area, and the service from out wide wasn’t good enough.
Sunderland remained a threat on the break and added a third goal 20 minutes from time after a dynamic run from Ki.
While Fulham were appealing in vain for handball at one end, Ki strode forward before picking out Johnson with a superb pass and he tucked the ball past Stockdale.
The Whites’ misery was completed late on when Altidore went down over Senderos’s outstretched leg and Johnson did the rest.
Fulham (4-2-3-1):Stockdale; Riether, Senderos, Amorebieta, Riise; Parker, Sidwell; Duff (Dejagah 68), Taarabt (Kasami 62), Dempsey (Bent 78); Berbatov.
Subs not used: Kačaniklić, Richardson, Hughes, Etheridge.