Graft and flair powers young Sunderland side to crucial win over Hull City
It was tense, difficult and exhausting but for the Sunderland support, oh so rewarding.
After a week in which players not part of Chris Coleman's plans dominated the discussion, a youthful side offered the graft and flair that has been missing for so much of this season.
6 of the starting XI were aged 23 or under, but fears of an inexperienced, soft centre hurting the hosts were allayed by a tenacious performance.
They rode their luck at times in the second half but fully deserved three precious points that hauls their opponents right back into the relegation picture. The goal was a delightful move, finished with remarkable composure by Joel Asoro. An enormous boost for Coleman and the beleaguered support.
Coleman's selection had been bold. Injuries have of course forced his hand but it would have been easy nevertheless to pick the likes of McManaman and McGeady, not quite fit but established and experienced.
Instead he tinkered slightly with the 3-4-3 of recent weeks, Maja and Asoro playing direct and through the middle.
Despite a cagey start, Sunderland were more threatening and incisive, targeting the uncertain Hull defence.
George Honeyman broke down the left, cutting inside and laying up Asoro. The Swede found Billy Jones on the edge of the area but he fired wide. Moments later, Maja broke clear of the defence and forced a good save from Allan McGregor as the Scot dived to his left.
Hull were rocking and with 19 minutes on the clock, the hosts carved them open with a superb move.
Lee Cattermole slid in and won the ball in front of his own area, moving the ball quickly out the right flank. Maja played the ball inside for George Honeyman, who drove forward and waited for Asoro to make his move. The pass was perfectly weighted, the 18-year-old taking it in his stride and firing home across McGregor.
Sunderland continued to compete well, Ethan Robson continuously getting the better of former Black Cat David Meyler in the middle of the pitch.
The visitors did begin to get a foothold as the half developed, Seb Larsson putting some dangerous balls into the box, with Jon Toral shooting just over the bar with one.
The Tigers continued to press at the beginning of the second half, Larsson firing just wide with a dipping volley from distance.
Sunderland were struggling to get a hold of the ball but were inches away from going two ahead when Honeyman ran onto Bryan Oviedo's through ball and stabbed just wide of the far post.
Hull were the better side and twice went close.
A thunderbolt from Michael Dawson as a corner broke to the edge of the box was headed off the line from Oviedo, before Campbell somehow fired wide from an excellent cutback.
The hosts looked to be rocking but as Nigel Adkins rolled the dice and threw on attacking bodies, they began to look more comfortable and offer a real counter-attacking threat.
Asoro was unlucky to be booked for a dive after turning Dawson in the penalty box, before McGregor saved well from Robson.
Hull laid siege to the Sunderland goal in stoppage time with Ruiter making a superb stop from Meyler, but the hosts held on for an exhilaring win.