Sunderland signed off 2021 in style as they thrashed Sheffield Wednesday 5-0 to climb to the top of the Sky Bet League One table.
Ross Stewart claimed his first Sunderland hat-trick as the Owls were comprehensively beaten, with Callum Doyle and Benji Kimpioka also scoring.
Sheffield Wednesday might have arrived on Wearside on the back of a 12-game unbeaten run in League One, but Sunderland effectively put the game to bed in the first half with three unanswered goals before the interval.
Stewart scored the first two of them, with his opening strike seeing him break beyond a dawdling Chey Dunkley to reach Leon Dajaku’s throughball and slot a low finish past Bailey Peacock-Farrell.
Stewart doubled his tally in the 36th minute, with Jack Hunt’s inability to hold on to possession in his own half proving costly. Hunt lost the ball to Alex Pritchard, and he set up Stewart for a low angled drive that found the bottom left-hand corner.
A third goal arrived five minutes before the interval, with Tom Flanagan nodding the ball back across goal from a corner and Doyle heading home from close range. It was Doyle’s first goal since joining Sunderland on loan from Manchester City in the summer.
Peacock-Farrell prevented Stewart from scoring a third goal with an excellent point-blank save at the start of the second half, but he was unable to stop Sunderland’s leading scorer from claiming the first hat-trick of his senior career shortly before the hour mark.
Bailey Wright slung over a cross from the right, and after peeling off his marker, Stewart powered home a header at the back post.
A rampant Sunderland completed their scoring with 15 minutes remaining as substitute Kimpioka fired a low finish through Peacock-Farrell’s legs.