ON PAPER, meetings against Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool boasted an ominous air.
But in the end, they have simply proved an opportunity for Sunderland to stay true to form.
The draw specialists continue to put those single point tallies on the board - eight all-square finishes now, five of which have been stalemates.
No-one should begrudge a tally of two points from three tough games. Rather than the predictions from the doom-mongers about Sunderland sinking into the bottom three, they have maintained the narrow gap with the drop zone.
Considering Gus Poyet has had scant few opportunities to shuffle his pack too, Sunderland did well to restore performance levels at Anfield and immediately move on from the heavy defeat against City.
But given the quantity of draws, it continues to be unavoidable to ponder where Sunderland would be if they could have converted two or three into wins.
Considering how poor Liverpool were, this was certainly an opportunity to end their 31-year hoodoo at Anfield.
Until the introduction of Steven Gerrard midway through the second half finally sprung Liverpool into life, the hosts were startling in how far they have fallen from last season’s second placed finish.
Sunderland were so, so comfortable as they reverted to their solid defensive shape and kept possession effectively.
With Seb Larsson and Liam Bridcutt excellent in restricting any space in the middle of the park, there was a morgue-esque atmosphere at Anfield, which the 2,000 travelling Sunderland supporters delighted in.
If only Sunderland could have converted that into a clear-cut chance or too.
Connor Wickham had an early penalty shout turned down, flashed a couple of shots wide of the mark in the second half, while Wes Brown should have done better from Larsson’s corner on the stroke of half-time.
But there wasn’t that one moment for Sunderland to take advantage of.
For the watching Ellis Short and Lee Congerton, that surely has to be the priority in January.
While Jozy Altidore worked hard on his first Premier League start of the campaign, the continuing problems with his hold-up play don’t suggest he is the answer.
However, neither did Liverpool create a genuine opportunity.
Coutinho had a shot beaten away by Costel Pantilimon, while Gerrard’s introduction at least saw the hosts pick up the tempo and Raheem Sterling emerge from a daze.
But as against Chelsea, Sunderland’s back-line was superb, with John O’Shea completely thwarting any threat from Rickie Lambert.
Other than Southampton, that end of the pitch hasn’t been a problem for Sunderland this season.
If they can find that little bit extra at the other end in the New Year, then these commendable draws will quickly turn into victories.