Lennon on song for Spurs to put the pressure on Arsenal and Chelsea
Premier League: Sunderland 1 Tottenham 2
Aaron Lennon was on form as Tottenham claimed a vital three points at Sunderland to put the pressure on top four rivals Arsenal and Chelsea, who play tonight and tomorrow respectively.
Spurs had fallen behind to John O'Shea's strike on the half-hour mark, having been the better side in the opening exchanges.
But they produced a quick-fire comeback early in the second half to lead 2-1 after Carlos Cuellar turned Lennon's corner into his own net and the winger got on the scoresheet two minutes later.
Gareth Bale, although superb, courted controversy when he was booked for diving for the third time in five games, while under pressure from Cuellar – meaning he will miss the game with Reading on New Year's Day.
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The Lilywhites were able to hold off a late charge from the Black Cats to take all three points back to north London.
Tottenham had the first opportunity and Bale, who blasted a hat-trick against Aston Villa on Boxing Day, was at the heart of it.
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The Welsh wizard burst down the left flank, turning Craig Gardner and leaving him for dead, before crossing the ball for Emmanuel Adebayor. However, the Togo international's shot was weak and easily dealt with by Simon Mignolet.
Sunderland hit back just after the 15-minute mark and Spurs defender Michael Dawson was needed to clear Adam Johnson's cross from the danger zone.
The Lilywhites had a golden opportunity to take the lead when Lennon played Adebayor through on goal but Mignolet narrowed the angle and turned the frontman's shot behind for a corner.
The right winger nearly teed up Bale but the Welshman's header looped over the bar with just under half an hour gone.
Tottenham should have taken the lead a minute later when Jermain Defoe tried to curl the ball into the far corner.
Sunderland defender Cuellar then mis-kicked it presenting the ball to Adebayor, but with Mignolet closing him down, the striker inexplicably fired the ball onto the crossbar from two yards out.
With 10 minutes to go until half-time, the Black Cats then gave Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris a scare as Cuellar turned Johnson's free-kick just over the bar with a looping header that landed on the roof of the net.
And two minutes later the home side had the lead. Kyle Walker lost possession in his own half and in the process of trying to win the ball back, conceded a free-kick.
Sebastian Larsson's set play caused problems and the ball fell to Steven Fletcher, whose shot was expertly blocked by Lloris. But the ball fell to O'Shea, who side-footed the ball home from four yards to give his side the lead.
Despite going into half-time trailing, Spurs were leading inside six minutes of the second period starting, and it was a gift from the Black Cats.
Lennon's corner caused problems and Cuellar turned the ball past Mignolet and into his own net to give Tottenham the equaliser.
Just three minutes later the comeback was complete as Lennon took the ball thanks to a deflection off Matthew Kilgallon. The winger then pushed the ball past O'Shea and tucked the ball home to give his side the lead.
Spurs should have had a third when Bale broke and had the Sunderland defence panicking. The Welshman teed up Defoe but Mignolet raced across his line to produce a fantastic save to deny the England striker.
A one-goal cushion looked vulnerable and Sunderland were not giving up and Lloris had to be alert to turn Cuellar's free-kick behind.
Bale was, once again, booked for diving when he went down without being touched by Gardner as the match entered the final 10 minutes.
Moments later, Clint Dempsey sent Adebayor clean through but Mignolet kept him out with his feet once again.
The Black Cats kept coming and Kyle Naughton was calm in the middle to clear Johnson's cross with four minutes remaining.
Lloris had to be alert to palm away another corner in stoppage time but Spurs were able to hold on for a vital three points in the race for a Champions League position.
Sunderland: Mignolet, Larsson (Wickham 80), Gardner, Kilgallon (Campbell 62), Colback, O'Shea (Bramble 68), Johsnon, McClean, Cuellar, Fletcher, Sessegnon.
Unused Substitutes: Westwood, McFadden, Vaughan, Dong.
Tottenham: Lloris, Lennon (Parker 83), Adebayor, Bale (Sigurdsson 90), Naughton, Defoe (Dempsey 76), Dembele, Dawson, Walker, Sandro, Caulker.
Unused Substitutes: Friedel, Vertonghen, Huddlestone, Livermore.
Referee: Martin Atkinson.