After a dogged, tireless effort, Sunderland celebrated euphorically at the final whistle after becoming the first side of last season to register a clean sheet against champions-elect Chelsea.
November 2014’s stalemate may have added just one point to Sunderland’s tally, yet it felt like a victory; a triumph of resistance against Jose Mourinho’s side who were then sweeping away opponents with clinical competence.
But there are unlikely to be as many celebrations if Sunderland are left with yet another share of the spoils tomorrow.
Draws have been Sunderland’s downfall over recent weeks. The sense of frustration STILL festers at the inability to convert one into three against Newcastle, Southampton, West Brom et al.
Last weekend’s get-out-of-jail act at the Britannia Stadium was one of the few occasions when Sunderland were left with a sense of contentment at finishing all square.
A point tomorrow wouldn’t necessarily be the worst result in the world, if both Newcastle and Norwich fail to emerge victorious.
But with the Magpies travelling to whipping boys Aston Villa, Sunderland can hardly be counting on the resurgence of their neighbours coming to a screeching halt.
If Sunderland draw and Newcastle win to open up a three-point gap, then the Black Cats would be left with no room to manoeuvre.
Two wins out of two in the season’s final skirmishes would become a pressure cooker necessity.
Setting up to ‘not lose’ is no longer a feasible option.
However, Sam Allardyce faces the same quandary as Gus Poyet before him. By putting three combative players in the middle of the park and strengthening the defensive aspect, it has come at the cost of too many draws.
Is that going to alter if Allardyce turns to hitherto under-used Seb Larsson in midfield? Not necessarily. The Swede is in the same mould of Lee Cattermole, Jan Kirchhoff and Yann M’Vila in providing graft rather than goals.
Larsson is one of the few realistic alternative options available to Allardyce though, with Dame N’Doye again flopping at Stoke and Duncan Watmore clearly being earmarked for the super-sub role.
If it is the same XI for the sixth game on the spin, Allardyce needs someone to step up to the plate and prevent a fourth home blank on the spin.
That could be top marksman Jermain Defoe netting his first Stadium of Light goal since January or Fabio Borini getting on the scoresheet more consistently.
Once Sunderland have seen the outcome of results elsewhere, they will learn if an eighth draw in 13 is an acceptable outcome.
But let’s face reality, Sunderland have to approach this one as a must-win.