Sunderland sealed their Premier League safety and relegated Norwich and local rivals Newcastle with a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Everton. Norwich’s 4-2 defeat of Watford had no value. Liverpool and Chelsea ended their midweek clash one-all.
Defender Lamine Kone struck twice from close range after Patrick van Aanholt scored with a 25-yard free-kick that was misjudged by keeper Joel Robles.
Victory capped an impressive revival by Sam Allardyce’s side, who has lost only two of their past 13 games.
Everton were dire, heaping more pressure on boss Roberto Martinez.
The Toffees have picked up only six points from their past 10 league matches and the Spaniard is likely to face an uncomfortable final game of the season in front of disgruntled crowd at Goodison Park.
In contrast, Allardyce will be able to take his side to Watford on Sunday unburdened by the relegation fears that have surrounded the club since his appointment in October.
Sunderland’s survival was built on several key decisions this season, none more significant than the appointment of Allardyce after Dick Advocaat resigned following eight games without a win to start the campaign.
Hardened to the fight from his experiences at Bolton and Blackburn and with time on his side, the 61-year-old has steadily built a disciplined and spirited side, sprinkled with match-winners.
It has not always been smooth sailing – notably during a five-game losing streak at the end of last year – but since February they have been more consistent and possessing of far greater fight than their main relegation rivals.