Sunderland 0 Blackburn Rovers 1

Sunderland, however, crashed to a sixth successive defeat and are still searching for a first home win of the season.

And with just Fulham, Newcastle United and Arsenal to visit the Stadium of Light as the Black Cats plunge headlong back into the Championship, it will take a brave punter to bet on them ending the hapless record.

Caretaker manager Kevin Ball made sweeping changes to the side beaten at Bolton last week, axing Nyron Nosworthy, Dan Smith, Tommy Miller and Kevin Kyle in favour of Justin Hoyte, Julio Arca and a new strike-force of Chris Brown and Jon Stead.

Rovers were without suspended midfielder Robbie Savage and striker Florent Sinama-Pongolle - Tugay and Paul Dickov came into the starting line-up.

Sunderland's new-look attack almost produced first-minute dividends. Brown flicked on a long punt from goalkeeper Kelvin Davis for Stead to latch on to, but the shot lacked the power to trouble Brad Friedel.

The home side kept up the pressure and forced two corners in quick succession, leading to a diving header from Rory Delap that flashed just wide of the post, with Friedel beaten.

Blackburn, however, gradually gained control and went ahead with a fine individual goal from Reid. Released by skipper Ryan Nelsen, Reid ran at a retreating home defence and went on unchallenged to ram the ball past Davis.

Morten Gamst Pedersen was just too high with a 20-yard free-kick after Arca had been pulled up for a foul on Emerton, before the alert Craig Bellamy, booed throughout on his return to the North East, dragged his shot across the face of goal to squander a great opportunity.

Emerton had a shot then a header blocked and Bellamy too was unlucky not to increase the lead with a close-range header as Blackburn took control.

But Sunderland, who had Grant Leadbitter and Hoyte booked for fouls, were denied on the stroke of half-time when Friedel dived to his right to save a Delap header.

Bellamy should have given Blackburn valuable breathing space six minutes into the second half but under pressure from Danny Collins as he went clear, he shot past the post.

And within a minute the miss should have proved costly, as Brown latched onto a long throughball only to be denied by the outstretched leg of Friedel.

Kyle took over from the disappointing Stead, still without a goal since his move from Blackburn, in the 66th minute, but the influential change was Liam Lawrence for Delap on 73 minutes.

Lawrence introduced pace and guile, firing a free-kick just too high and forcing Friedel into a near post save, but it was all vain as Ball suffered his third successive defeat since replacing Mick McCarthy.

Mickey Gray marred a sentimental return to his hometown club with a last-minute booking, but at least he was given a more welcome reception than the Sunderland board.

Disgruntled fans again demonstrated outside the main entrance of the ground after the final whistle before being dispersed by police.