Sunderland Women came from behind twice to achieve a thrilling victory over Durham Women in the River Wear Derby at Eppleton.
Backed by a bumper crowd of 1164 – a record attendance since being back in the Barclays Women’s Championship - Mel Reay’s side fought back in the second half to claim the spoils.
Sarah Wilson opened the scoring for Durham before Lasses’ new signing Liz Ejupi equalised just before half time.
Rio Hardy converted a penalty in the 61st minute, but Sunderland fought back once again, with Abby Holmes and substitute Katy Watson grabbing the second and third respectively within the last 10 minutes.
Durham started on the front foot in the first half, with Lily Crosthwaite’s cross-shot looping over the bar 10 minutes in.
On the 15 minute, Sarah Wilson connected with a Beth Hepple corner and headed past Claudia Moan.
After a promising start to her debut, Ejupi announced herself on Wearside with a goal against her former club. The striker chopped onto her left foot and whipped a shot across the ‘keeper and into the bottom corner.
Both sides were fully committed to the derby occasion, highlighted in the 50th minute as Wilson and Holmes collided in a robust 50/50 challenge, with both players up on their feet straight away.
Mollie Lambert was brought down in the box on the 60th minute, with Hardy converting her penalty from the spot to give Durham a 2-1 lead.
The Lasses responded brilliantly once again and got their rewards in the 83rd minute as Emma Kelly’s corner dropped to the feet of Holmes, who smashed a shot past Naoisha McAloon to equalise yet again.
Lee Sanders’ side almost replied swiftly, but Moan made a great stop to deny Wilson, tipping the shot over the bar.
Substitute Katy Watson took only eight minutes on the pitch to make a crucial impact. The ball was played through the centre and Watson used her pace to get there first and poke a shot past the goalkeeper to score Sunderland’s third and the eventual winner.
With six minutes added on, the Lasses still had to keep their focus, and defended brilliantly to see out a momentous derby victory at Eppleton.
Reay’s side will be using the momentum from the performance as they prepare for two games on the road - Wednesday’s Conti Cup game against Blackburn, and a league game next Sunday against Birmingham.
SAFC Women: Moan, Beer, McCatty, Herron, Holmes, Kelly ©, D. Brown, Joice (Watson 80’), J. Brown, Scarr, Ejupi.
Substitutes: Cowling, Griffiths, Ede, McInnes, Westrup.