Sunderland take advantage of extra man late on to secure victory in Kent.
A Chris Maguire penalty and a Lynden Gooch goal were enough to secure all three points in a 2-0 win at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium for Sunderland on Saturday.
This came after Zech Medley was adjudged to have fouled Charlie Wyke inside the penalty area, and after Jordan Graham had missed a penalty of his own.
The penalty miss came during a chaotic five minutes which also saw Alex MacDonald shown a straight red card for a challenge on Luke O’Nien.
Steve Evans made three changes from the side that narrowly lost to Ipswich as new loanee goalkeeper Joe Lumley replaced Jack Bonham, and Vadaine Oliver came in for John Akinde. Connor Ogilvie returned from suspension to start in place of Christian Maghoma.
The first chance of the game fell to the Gills in the eighth minute with the hosts bossing proceedings in the early stages despite the poor conditions.
Vadaine Oliver did well to head down to Alex MacDonald whose dinked pass found Dominic Samuel inside the penalty area. Samuel struck the ball on the volley, but his effort went over Lee Burge’s crossbar.
The next Gills chance came from a Jordan Graham corner, but his low ball was skied over the top by the oncoming Oliver.
Sunderland thought they had the lead in the 25th minute, but the Gills were saved by the offside flag when a ball into the box was headed into the far corner.
Josh Scowen’s free-kick was met by a diving header at the back post by Luke O’Nien who headed past Lumley. Luckily, the linesman judged him to be offside.
Scowen was at the heart of the action again having two great chances to give the visitors the lead.
The first one was from a low cross into the Gills penalty area, and he blazed his first-time effort over the crossbar whilst being unmarked. The second chance was a harder one as he got beyond Kyle Dempsey whilst driving into the penalty area, before missing the target.
The Sunderland pressure continued from a corner this time, and a goal-bound effort was cleared by the Gills.
HALF-TIME: Gillingham 0-0 Sunderland
The opening ten minutes of the second half was a quiet one as neither side created any chances. Gillingham had a couple of good spells in possession but failed to create anything clear cut.
It was a chaotic five minutes following the hour for the Gills, but one where everything went against them after controlling the play.
Ryan Jackson won a penalty having been fouled by Tom Flanagan following some fine play from the right-back.
Graham’s penalty was down the middle but saved by Burge, and Samuel missed the follow up with his shot going into the ground and over the bar.
Then, moments later, Alex MacDonald was shown a straight red card following a challenge on O’Nien. His tackle sparked a confrontation between several players, but once they parted the referee had no hesitation in sending him off.
Sunderland had a great chance to take the lead in the 66th minute, but Aiden O’Brien dragged his shot wide of the post from close range.
The MacDonald sending off forced Gills to defend valiantly for the last twenty minutes, and Sunderland were denied a goal following a fantastic block by Jack Tucker.
Joe Lumley made a great save to tip Charlie Wyke’s near post effort over the crossbar as the visitors pressure intensified.
In the 82nd minute the Gills’ hard work was finally undone as Zech Medley was adjudged to have fouled Wyke inside the penalty area.
Sub Chris Maguire sent Lumley the wrong way and put his penalty into the bottom right corner.
Danny Graham almost doubled the visitors' lead but could not get his effort on target, however this proved irrelevant when Lynden Gooch got Sunderland’s second in stoppage time as he latched onto a loose ball, and put the ball through Lumley's legs to secure the points.
FULL-TIME: Gillingham 0-2 Sunderland
Gillingham: Lumley; Jackson, Tucker, Ogilvie, Medley; Dempsey, McKenzie, MacDonald; Graham (Coyle 87), Samuel (Robertson, 65), Oliver (Akinde, 70)
Unused subs: Walsh, Maghoma, Drysdale, Willock
Sunderland: Burge, McLaughlin, Flanagan, Wright, Wyke, O'Brien (Graham 70), Gooch, O'Nien, Scowen (Maguire 81), Leadbitter, Hume.
Unused subs: Matthews, Power, Sanderson, Diamond, Grigg.
Referee: Mr S Purkiss