Blackburn Rovers gave their hopes of Championship survival a massive boost after a sublime performance saw them win 5-1 at Sunderland.

John Eustace has his first official win as head coach as Rovers blitzed the Black Cats with four goals in the opening 54 minutes. 

For a team short of goals and without an away win since November, Blackburn made light work of their opponents and had the game wrapped up before the hour mark.

Sam Szmodics' first-half brace put Rovers in control. They were too typically clinical finishes for the top-scorer, picked out by Tyrhys Dolan and Joe Rankin-Costello in the box.

The second half produced more one-way traffic and two early goals alleviated any concern about the destination of the three points. Ryan Hedges finished one-on-one after good work from Sam Gallagher before the Welshman set up Dolan to add the fourth.

Sunderland did pull back a consolation goal with 15 minutes to go. Bradley Dack's header was brilliantly kept out by Aynsley Pears but Chris Rigg was on hand to turn in the rebound.

But Rovers restored their four-goal margin a few moments later. Szmodics miscued his finish at the back post but the ball dropped to substitute Andrew Moran and he scored from close range.

Knowing the difficulty of Rovers' fixtures to come, the pressure was on heading to the North East. Of those remaining, this looked like one of the more winnable matches for Eustace and the team.

Sunderland had lost six of their last seven ahead of the Easter weekend but picked up a morale-lifting 2-0 win at Cardiff. Not an ideal result for Rovers, who were seeking a first league victory at the Stadium of Light since 2007.

Travel sickness has been an issue that has plagued Rovers in 2024. Although a lot of the losses had been converted to draws under Eustace, their last victory on the road was against Stoke City on November 25, 10 games ago.

Eustace was at least boosted by the return of Sam Gallagher, who was the sole change from the narrow defeat to Ipswich Town. Kyle McFadzean and John Buckley also returned to the bench.

Coming to the Stadium of Light is never easy, with Sunderland backed by a huge crowd. The away side started the brighter of the two sides and dominated the first 15 minutes with Adil Aouchiche and Pierre Ekwah having efforts that were presentable but straight at Pears.

It took 20 minutes for Rovers to really create a moment of significance. Rankin-Costello found space in the box and was picked out but his shot was blocked whilst Dolan dragged a shot wide from 25 yards when well placed.

It felt like both sides just needed one moment to get ahead and then grab the game by the scruff of the neck. That fell to Rovers and to the man they'd want; Szmodics.

A clever exchange of passes between Ben Chrisene, on for the injured Harry Pickering, and Dolan saw the latter reverse a ball into Szmodics' path and he fired across Anthony Patterson and into the far corner.

That gave Rovers a noticeable lift whilst Sunderland struggled to find any control, rocked by the opener. Moments later, the lead was doubled.

Dolan was again central, playing a pass into Rankin-Costello who rolled his man at the byline and picked out Szmodics to score from close range. Two clinical finishes from Rovers' top-scorer for his 28th and 29th goals of the season.

The Black Cats were on the ropes and Rankin-Costello could've made it three but he was denied by Patterson. The impact of the midfielder's return from injury was clear to see after covering every blade of grass in the first 45 minutes.

The fear for those in the away end would be an early Sunderland goal and a second-half onslaught but those fears were quickly forgotten when Rovers added a third.

Gallagher burst past his man and played the ball into the path of Hedges for him to go through and finish past Patterson. Rovers were in dreamland and seemed to have the game sewn up on 50 minutes.

Things got even better and with 54 minutes on the clock, Rovers had a four-goal lead. Again, Rovers won the ball high up and Dolan was picked out in the box before finding space to poke the ball in off the post.

For a team that had scored four goals in their last six games before Monday's match, this was extraordinary. Sunderland were the only fools in sight on April 1.

Sunderland managed to put a small dent in the deficit with 15 minutes to go as Rigg tapped in the rebound after Pears had saved Dack's goal-bound header.

The four-goal margin of victory was re-established shortly after though as Dilan Markanday got to the byline and picked out Szmodics. He mistimed his finish but the ball dropped to Moran to net his first goal of 2024.

That proved to be the last action of an eventful afternoon in the North East. An unbelievable way for Rovers to end a 10-game winless run away from home.

Results elsewhere mean Rovers are up two places to 17th and now five points clear of the bottom three. Eustace will hope this is a springboard for a more comfortable end to the campaign.