Ten-man Tranmere Rovers were beaten 1-0 by promotion-chasing Sunderland at Prenton Park on Wednesday night after having Manny Monthe sent off.
Charlie Wyke headed Phil Parkinson’s Black Cats into the lead from Chris Maguire’s free-kick with 60 minutes on the clock following on from an evenly matched opening hour.
Centre-back Monthe was sent off for a second booking with five minutes left after bringing down George Dobson.
Manager Micky Mellon handed Kane Wilson a first start since the full-back returned on loan from West Bromwich Albion, while Calum Woods came in for the injured Peter Clarke and Alex Woodyard replaced Neil Danns.
Sunderland went close in the opening five minutes when Joel Lynch headed across goal, but Bailey Wright turned over the crossbar and into the Argyle Satellite Taxis Kop from close-range.
Luke O’Nien then sent a cross in towards Jordan Willis, but the midfielder couldn’t get a clear shot away, and it was cleared away by the hosts.
Rovers engineered their opening chance of the contest through Morgan Ferrier, who could only drag an effort wide of the post after being played in by Connor Jennings.
Ferrier’s industrious play was causing issues for the visitors’ and he won a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area having been wrestled to the turf by Lynch.
Up-stepped Wilson for the resulting set-piece, who bent a low shot from the left which was pushed out by goalkeeper John McLaughlin at his far post, with Ridehalgh inches from getting to the rebound.
Rovers then went onto enjoy a positive spell of play, with Ferrier’s strike charged down, while Jennings’ first-time snapshot went off target.
Tranmere had Wilson to thank with five minutes of the half remaining when his perfect sliding tackle stopped O’Nien from tapping in a cross at the back post.
Following the restart, Lynden Gooch broke into the box following good build-up by Max Power and Maguire, but Scott Davies was fast off his line to force the American wide.
Sunderland were in front with an hour gone on the Wirral when Wyke glanced in from six-yards past Davies after Maguire’s set-piece.
Searching for a route back into it, Ferrier broke at pace down the left flank, feeding Kieron Morris inside the 18-yard box, though the midfielder’s drive was thwarted by Wright.
Mellon brought on Paul Mullin off the substitutes bench after 66 minutes, with the forward replacing the injured Ridehalgh as Rovers searched for a leveller.
Gooch almost notched Sunderland’s second 17 minutes from time, though after lifing the ball over Davies, it dropped over the crossbar and onto the roof of the net.
Forward Stefan Payne was sent on in place of Ferrier and David Perkins came off for Harvey Gilmour as Rovers pushed in the final ten minutes.
Tranmere’s task was made even tougher when Monthe was dismissed by referee Antony Coggins for fouling Dobson.
Not to be deterred, Rovers remained on the hunt for a point, and Wilson’s deep free-kick from the left caused a goal-mouth scramble, which was cleared.
But Tranmere couldn’t find a way to earn a point and were narrowly defeated in front of the SWA.
Next up for TRFC is a visit to Bolton Wanderers on Saturday afternoon, kick-off 3pm at the University of Bolton Stadium.
TRFC: Davies ©, Woods, Monthe, Ridehalgh, (Mullin 66) Caprice, Woodyard, Perkins, (Gilmour 80) Wilson, Morris, Ferrier, (Payne 77) Jennings
Subs not used: Pilling, Nelson, Potter, Spellman,