Festive lift-off as Martin O’Neill’s magic starts to inspire Sunderland’s rise

Wes Brown (far left) watches as his header goes in for the 3rd Sunderland goal.
Wes Brown (far left) watches as his header goes in for the 3rd Sunderland goal.
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SEASON-defining moments are often only recognised in retrospect – the key game, the key goal, the key injury not appreciated until it falls into context in the fullness of the season.

But, even as they passed last night, every minute of the final half-hour of last night’s match felt like the turning point of the campaign for Sunderland.

The only problem was in deciding in which direction the compass arrow was swinging as Sunderland won, drew, threatened to lose and, ultimately, won again, a game of such significance.

The victory – Sunderland’s second away win of the season, Martin O’Neill’s first on the road as Black Cats’ boss – puts the Wearsiders three points and two teams clear of the relegation zone.

It takes them to the fringes of the dogfight at the bottom, gives them desperately needed breathing space, and holds out the tantalising prospect of a win over Everton on Boxing Day hoisting them to the safety of lower mid-table.

To read the rest of the match report, please see tonight’s Sunderland Echo.