Sunderland scored twice in the final six minutes to earn a tempestuous 2-0 victory over 10-man Gillingham, who themselves missed a penalty in the Sky Bet League One match at Priestfield.
Black Cats keeper Lee Burge saved Jordan Graham’s second-half penalty before substitute Chris Maguire scored from the spot and Lyndon Gooch wrapped up the win in added time.
The Gills, who saw manager Steve Evans booked for his reaction to the penalty decision, slumped to a fifth-consecutive league defeat for the first time since February 2012.
Sunderland thought they had taken the lead on 26 minutes but Luke O’Nien’s diving header from Josh Scowen’s free-kick was disallowed for offside.
The game turned when former Gills loanee Tom Flanagan clumsily bundled Ryan Jackson over, Burge parried Jordan Graham’s penalty and Dominic Samuel somehow fired the rebound over.
Gillingham midfielder Alex MacDonald was then dismissed for an horrendous tackle on O’Nien on the hour.
Charlie Wyke forced Gills’ debutant goalkeeper Joe Lumley – signed on an emergency loan from QPR on Friday – into a stunning fingertip save, before the visitors opened the scoring.
Zech Medley fouled Wyke inside the penalty area and Maguire coolly sent Lumley the wrong way for Sunderland’s opener.
Gooch wrapped up his side’s success in the fifth minute of stoppage time with a solo goal on the counter-attack.