Chris Young: A Norwich win at Palace would leave Sunderland facing the same task as 2013-14
If Norwich City secure a third successive Premier League victory tomorrow, then Sunderland will be facing Groundhog Day.
For the second time in three years, Sunderland will be seven points adrift of fourth bottom Norwich with seven games to go, yet boasting two matches in hand.
The sole difference will be that Sunderland have a chance to claw back some of the deficit in a remaining meeting with the Canaries.
But that alarming potential parallel is a mark of the size of the task facing Sunderland.
With Sunderland heading to Carrow Road a week tomorrow, these next eight days will surely decide whether the Black Cats are playing Premier League or Championship football next season.
The contrast with 2013-14, is the mood around the Sunderland camp.
Two years ago - fresh from a 5-1 roasting at Spurs when Gus Poyet admitted Sunderland needed a “miracle” - despondency had well and truly set in. It was a matter of when, not if, the Black Cats’ relegation would be confirmed.
But there is a genuine sense of positivity at the Academy of Light after recent performances, and a straw to grasp that Sunderland’s fate remains in their own hands with that pivotal encounter at Norwich next week.
The sense of confidence has been there for several weeks; ever since the existing squad saw the impact made by Sam Allardyce’s January signings.
Other than frustration over the draw habit, Allardyce’s biggest concern this week has been maintaining that self-belief after yet another positive display failed to culminate in victory.
Lightening the mood with a splash of beach football at Seaburn on Tuesday was a clear ploy from the Sunderland boss to ensure there wasn’t any doom-mongering.
But the optimism that Sunderland can still complete yet another Houdini act is teetering precariously.
The days of ‘possibles’ and ‘probables’ are almost behind the Black Cats.
The next two weekends will propel Allardyce’s side one way or the other.