SUNDERLAND head to Tyneside this weekend looking to secure three successive wins over Newcastle United for the first time since 1923.
But Old Firm veteran Ki Sung-Yueng realises there is far more at stake at St James’s Park tomorrow than just local pride.
The Black Cats, who last did the double over the Magpies in the same season in 1966-67, have enjoyed the Midas touch over Alan Pardew’s side recently after taking eight points from the last four derbies.
But on-loan Swansea midfielder Ki says that points are just as important as the bragging rights tomorrow lunchtime.
Sunderland moved out of the bottom three for the first time since August after beating Stoke City on Wednesday night and Ki is looking for the Wearsiders to move further away from danger.
Ki told the Echo: “It’s been a long five months in the relegation zone and it’s tough down there.
“It was the first time we’d come out of the bottom three against Stoke, so it was a special day.
“But now we need to keep picking up points, even in away games.
“Beating Stoke is definitely a good platform for tomorrow.
“We know how much it means to the fans, but if we can win the game, it will take us even further up the table.
“It’s a crucial match.
“We don’t have to say anything about it.
“We know how tough it will be against our big rivals, but I think we are improving now.”
Ki will make his first Tyne-Wear derby start tomorrow after he proved to be a telling second-half replacement for Lee Cattermole in October’s 2-1 home victory over Newcastle.
But the South Korean is well-versed in the derby atmosphere after appearing in seven Old Firm encounters north of the border during his stint at Celtic.
“I came off the bench during the second half in the win over Newcastle, so if I can start the game tomorrow, it will be great,” added the 24-year-old.
“I know all about derbies and because it’s an away game, there will be more support for them.
“I played seven Old Firm derbies against Rangers when I was at Celtic, so I know what these games are about.
“The result is all that matters. A defeat can be damaging, but a win would be unbelievable for the team and the fans.”
* Don’t miss tomorrow’s derby special Football Echo – it’s online from around 7pm with the biggest and best coverage of the big day