Gillingham manager Steve Evans believes 10-man Sunderland “rode their luck” as his side lost 2-1 to the Black Cats at Priestfield.
Sunderland moved up to fourth in League One despite Danny Lloyd’s penalty putting the Gills ahead.
Goals from Aiden O’Brien and Tom Flanagan gave Sunderland the comeback victory, despite Elliot Embleton’s red card reducing the visitors to 10 men with 23 minutes remaining.
Evans said: “Sunderland rode their luck.
“We should be winning this game as comfortably as we’ve won all season, but we didn’t take our chances.
“We cannot give any more in terms of effort – the group gave everything they’ve got, and Sunderland will never get a battering like that all season and still come away with the points.
“Lee (Johnson) just said to me ‘We got away with that’, and we’ve dominated from start to finish, but you’d say the two goals we gave away are disappointing.
“Today just reminds me that we must have run over five or six black cats in June and July because I don’t understand why the referee has only added on four minutes at the end.
“He’s warned their goalkeeper three times for time-wasting, we’ve had substitutes, we’ve had two goals, we’ve had a sending off, and he still only adds four minutes.
“Listen to the words, FA: pathetic decision.”
Evans’ side took the lead after 25 minutes when Lloyd fired home from a penalty kick after Luke O’Nien tripped Stuart O’Keefe in the box.
Sunderland equalised three minutes into first-half stoppage time after O’Brien poked Dan Neil’s cross home before Flanagan scored the winner from Alex Pritchard’s delivery nine minutes into the second half.
Embleton saw red for a sliding tackle on Jack Tucker, but the Gills failed to capitalise.
Sunderland manager Lee Johnson said: “To be fair, I thought we were excellent in the first 25 minutes of the second half, that was us.
“It was a tough game against a side who will cause teams in this league problems, especially at home, so I’m really pleased to come out with three points.
“I’m not sure we weren’t at the races in the first half. Gillingham dropped off, and it was difficult. Every time we did get an opportunity to execute a final ball, the quality wasn’t there.
“We actually played some nice patterns but not as quickly as we normally do, therefore we’ve got to be better than we were in the first half.
“I wasn’t pleased with the performance, but the timing of the goal allowed us to be objective and not emotive at half-time.
“I’m not sure you can appeal it (Embleton’s red card), but it’s what the referee interprets.”