IT was THE chance for Sunderland to send the Capital One Cup final into extra time.
When Marcos Alonso’s knockdown fell into the path of Steven Fletcher on the edge of the Manchester City six-yard box, it was crying out for the Sunderland substitute to unleash a swinger with his weaker right foot.
Instead, Fletcher was caught in two minds and the ball bounced harmlessly off him and behind for a goal-kick.
That 89th-minute spurned opportunity at Wembley was a moment which could have left Fletcher haunted for weeks, months and beyond.
But the Scotland international is more philosophical; insisting it was only when he watched replays that he realised the quality of the chance.
Fletcher told the Echo: “I think other people were talking about it more than me.
“I wasn’t going to shoot, I was going to cross it.
“But then obviously, when I’ve seen it back, I should have shot.
“It’s just one of those things.”
Sunderland’s future, rather than their past, holds far more prominence in Fletcher’s thoughts, with the Black Cats facing a crucial outing in the relegation battle against fifth-bottom Crystal Palace tomorrow.
After suffering defeat in the FA Cup quarter-final at Hull last weekend, Sunderland now know that they have a dozen remaining games to save their Premier League status.
And the chance to leapfrog Palace is a pivotal step for Gus Poyet’s side, as they look to beat one of their relegation rivals at the Stadium of Light for only the second time this season.
“We can focus 100 per cent on the league now,” said Fletcher.
“The boys know what’s ahead of them.
“We need to put the Hull result behind us, look to the Premier League and win some games.
“The Palace game is massive for us. We all know that.
“I’d say the Palace game is as big as the final just now.
“We obviously need to win; especially at home against one of the teams around us.
“We always seem to perform better against the so-called bigger teams, but we need to start picking up points against the teams in or around us.”