Sunderland looked set to give incoming manager Martin O'Neill a boost on Sunday but a missed Sebastian Larsson penalty led to a Wolves revival as the score finished 2-1 to the home side at Molineux.
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Sunderland had gone four games without a win in the Premier League and sat just a point above the relegation zone prior to kick-off. They appeared to be heading for a rare victory in front of their newly appointed boss as Larsson lined up a penalty for 2-0, following Kieran Richardson's earlier strike.
However, Larsson's tame effort was saved by Wayne Hennessey, and a quick-fire double from Steve Fletcher turned the match on its head.
Eric Black took caretaker charge for Sunderland and immediately had to endure some nervy moments, not least from Fletcher's first-half header that came dangerously close to crossing the line before Kieren Westwood's intervention.
Westwood had plenty of work to do throughout the afternoon and his best was still to come in the second half when, having already made one save, the Sunderland keeper reached up an arm to somehow deny Stephen Hunt from six yards.
Sunderland's breakthrough arrived seven minutes after half-time when Nicklas Bendtner flicked on for Stephane Sessegnon, who found Richardson, allowing the former Manchester United man to rifle an excellent finish into the corner.
The Black Cats then had the chance to kill the game off with 18 minutes remaining, after Larsson was awarded a controversial penalty following an over-elaborate tumble on the edge of the area. The Swede stepped up to take the spot-kick but rolled an awful effort into the arms of Hennessey diving to his left.
Within 25 seconds the mistake was punished, Wolves going straight down the other end to score through a Fletcher header, after a beautiful in-swinging Matt Jarvis cross. It was then left to Fletcher to win it in controversial circumstances, volleying home after Jamie O'Hara appeared to handle in the build-up. In the day's other game, Stoke emerged victorious from a dire 90 minutes of football to leapfrog Everton into eighth in the Premier League table with a 1-0 victory.
Goodison Park paid an emotional tribute to former hero Gary Speed prior to kick-off, walking out to the Wales national anthem rather than their familiar Z Cars theme tune, and they quickly set about trying to earn a win to mark the occasion. However, the Toffees' fast start was halted when Stoke took the lead against the run of play in the 15th minute, Robert Huth diverting Dean Whitehead's volley into the back of the net.
Stoke were bidding to end the unwanted habit of losing every Premier League game played after a Europa League group encounter. On four previous occasions they had felt the added strain of European football, but this time Tony Pulis' side stood firm.
David Moyes threw on Denis Stracqualursi and Jack Rodwell in an effort to change matters, but the most significant moment of the second period was an injury that saw Thomas Sorensen replaced by Asmir Begovic, resulting in seven minutes of injury-time.