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Sunderland cruised past Fulham recording a rare away win that looks to have secured their Premier League status and doomed Roy Hodgson’s side to relegation.

Danny Collins nodded the visitors ahead just before half-time and substitute Michael Chopra doubled their lead with a clever lob just after the break.

Cottagers substitute David Healy fired home from 20 yards on 73 minutes but Kenwyne Jones rolled home instantly.

Fulham remain six points from safety with just five games remaining.

The in-form visitors went into the match knowing a win would virtually guarantee their future in the top-flight, while Fulham knew that anything but victory would mean little hope of survival.

The Cottagers duly sprang out of the traps with some early pressure and, on 13 minutes, striker Brian McBride should have done better than to head straight into the arms of Craig Gordon when free in the box from 12 yards out.

Seconds later Welsh midfielder Simon Davies hammered a shot just over the bar from outside the box.

Draw specialists Fulham continued to probe but had a lucky escape when referee Mark Halsey disallowed a Collins headed goal for a supposed shove on Leon Andreasen after he converted Andy Reid’s dead-ball cross.

To a crescendo of noise from the Wearsider’s visiting support, the tempo of the game settled down with both sides looking controlled in possession without showing any real cutting edge.

Davies again fired a shot just over the bar but it was Roy Keane’s side who made the breakthrough just before half-time.

Daryl Murphy dropped a shoulder to find space under pressure from Brede Hangeland and the Sunderland man’s cross was nodded past Kasey Keller by Collins, who was not to be denied on this occasion.

Within a minute of the restart Fulham carved out a clear chance, with McBride scuffing the ball across the box and Diomansy Kamara failing to convert from close in as Nyron Nosworthy helped Sunderland clear their lines.

And the visitors soon pushed upfield to extend their lead.

Jones cleverly headed a long punt from defence into the path of half-time substitute Chopra, who let the ball drop over his head and instinctively lobbed Keller with his left foot.

Desperate Fulham boss Hodgson made an instant substiution, swapping defender Andreasen with Northern Ireland striker Healy and, minutes later, replacing Paul Stalteri with Clinton Dempsey – another attacking switch.

The changes had little immediate effect and confident Sunderland pushed forward with substitute Grant Leadbitter forcing Keller into an impressive high stop from distance.

Healy did give Fulham a glimmer of hope, expertly curling the ball into the top corner past Gordon with his left foot from 20 yards.

But Sunderland hit back instantly, Murphy marauding into the box and squaring for Jones to stroke into the corner of the net from 15 yards past a stricken Fulham rearguard.

The home side battled until the final whistle and Healy guided a header just wide of the post with five minutes remaining.

But, ultimately, their lack of goals throughout the season would appear to have cost them their place in the Premier League, while Sunderland rejoice over a priceless win.