In February 2003, Sunderland looked to be in serious relegation trouble. The Black Cats were in the bottom three and hadn’t won since surprising Liverpool FC two months earlier. However, the home faithful still believed they could record three points against Charlton Athletic. No side had recorded more away wins in the 2002-2003 season at this stage than Charlton. They had every reason to be confident of chalking up another three points on Wearside. However, they were about to get a huge helping hand from their opponents.
There were four goals scored in the match and all of them were scored by Sunderland. Unfortunately, three of them were for Charlton! A horrific eight-minute spell saw the Addicks into a 3-0 lead without them needing to score themselves past Sunderland goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen.
Charlton took the lead after 24 minutes. Mark Fish’s weak effort took two deflections on its way into Sorensen’s net. The right heel of defender Stephen Wright got the final touch. One own goal in a match can be considered as unfortunate. Two own goals look rather silly. Five minutes later, Chris Powell’s shot was stopped by Sorensen but came off Michael Proctor and trickled into the net. Worse was to come.
Sunderland’s horrific treble was completed by Proctor again. From another Charlton corner, a flick-on at the near post came off Proctor’s back who had turned his back away from the ball. It spun into the net to complete a hat-trick of own goals.
Some of the crowd already started to leave before half-time. Howard Wilkinson’s side did score one at the right end but lost 3-1. They wouldn’t win again all season and with misfortune like this, it wasn’t a surprise that Sunderland were relegated, having recorded just 19 points.