Sunderland opened the scoring through the recently prolific Wickham, who skilfully headed in Sebastian Larsson's corner.
The game's big moment came on the stroke of half time, when Wickham was tugged back by Juan Cala just inside the box. Referee Phil Dowd let play continue for a moment, before going back to award Sunderland a penalty and send off the Cardiff defender.
While the award of the red card seemed harsh, the penalty was not - and Fabio Borini calmly slotted it past David Marshall to double the Black Cats' lead.
Cardiff rarely threatened the Sunderland goal, with the best chance coming to Jordon Mutch, who headed over Peter Whittingham's corner when he should have scored.
Sunderland put the result beyond doubt when substitute Emanuele Giaccherini scored three minutes after coming off the bench, with a smart left-footed finish, before Wickham rounded off the win with his second of the game, nodding in from close range.
26' GOAL! Sunderland 1-0 Cardiff - Wickham stoops to head in an awkward Larsson corner, giving Sunderland the lead.
32' Sunderland chance! Almost a second for Wickham as Alonso's long ball is teed up for Wickham by Borini, but Caulker makes a vital block.
45' RED CARD AND PENALTY! Controversy as Wickham is tugged back by Cala in the box. Wickham stays on his feet as play goes on, only for referee Phil Dowd to award a penalty and send Cala off.
45'+1 GOAL! Sunderland 2-0 Cardiff - Borini fires in the resulting penalty and Sunderland double their lead.
59' Cardiff chance! Mutch loses his marker, but can only head Whittingham's corner over. Had to score.
66' Cardiff chance! Whittingham's free-kick clips off the Sunderland wall and Mannone re-adjust his body to push the ball away. Good stop.
76' GOAL! Sunderland 3-0 Cardiff - Borini slips a through ball into the path of Giaccherini, who doesn't have to break stride as he finishes well with his left foot.
86' GOAL! Sunderland 4-0 Cardiff - The rout is complete as Wickham gets his second of the game, nodding in from Giaccherini's corner.
Connor Wickham has scored five goals in his last three league appearances after netting just once in his first 37.
Cardiff City were the only team in Premier League history (46 teams in total) never to receive a red card. That record has gone today.
Only Norwich City have taken fewer away points this season (eight) than Cardiff City (10).
Can Sunderland stay up? Momentum has a lot to do with things at this stage of the season as the Black Cats certainly have the wind in their sails. With Cardiff almost certainly down and Norwich sinking like a stone, Sunderland will feel they can pull off a great escape.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Connor Wickham (Sunderland) - Who else? Scored two and made one with the strong run that led to the penalty. A new player under Poyet, Wickham could be the man to keep Sunderland up.
Sunderland: Mannone 8; Vergini 6, O'Shea 7, Brown 7, Alonso 7; Cattermole 6; Johnson 8, Larsson 7, Colback 7, Borini 6; Wickham 9 Subs: Gardner N/A, Giaccherini 8.
Cardiff: Marshall 5; Theophile-Catherine 5, Caulker 7, Cala 4, Fabio 4; Cowie 5, Medel 5, Whittingham 7, Dæhli 6; Mutch 6; Campbell 5. Subs: Jones 5, Zaha 6, Bellamy N/A
THE MATCH IN A TWEET
- Sports & Recreation
- Connor Wickham
- Cardiff City