Durham Women fell to a narrow defeat in the first River Wear Derby of the season.
Katie Kitching’s free-kick in first half stoppage time sealed victory for the visitors in a cagey game with few clear-cut chances.
Sunderland, who entered the game unbeaten, had the first real chance of the game when Natasha Fenton saw her header hacked away by Eleanor Ryan-Doyle.
Durham grew into the affair and Claudia Moan did well to deny Saoirse Noonan as she tried to loft a strike over the stopper’s head.
The visiting ‘keeper then made an even finer save as she clawed away Poppy Pritchard’s goal-bound header after Grace Ayre’s tempting cross.
Liz Ejupi then sent a powerful drive narrowly wide of the far post before Kitching struck late on in the half – curling home a free-kick at the near post.
The Black Cats carried that momentum into the second half with Ejupi and Kitching both coming close in the opening moments of the half.
Tatiana Saunders was then forced into action to deny Jenna Dear as Durham dug in, before starting to create chances of their own.
Lily Crosthwaite was thwarted by Moan after a mazy run and fellow substitute Jess Clarke was denied in injury time – as Sunderland saw out the game.
Durham XI: Saunders, Briggs, S Wilson, Robson, Lambert, Salicki (Crosthwaite 60) Bradley, Pritchard (Andrews (67), Ayre, Noonan (Clarke 67), Ryan-Doyle (Hepple 81)
Durham subs not used: McAloon, E Wilson, Nicholson, Holmes
Yellow Cards: Bradley 66, Briggs 80