Phil Smith analysis: A brief glimpse of something better but the curtain is drawing on Sunderland's season

In isolation, it might have simply looked like an average, late season Premier League game.

Saturday, 18th March 2017, 5:27 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 9:40 am
Borini missed two good chances in the second half

The home side did enough to win it, and certainly should have done with four priceless chances in the second half.

The away side were limited but dogged, creating some good chances but not a great deal on the whole.

The first half was turgid, the crowd understandably restless as stray pass followed stray pass.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

In isolation, it was a disappointing draw and an average performance.

Yet with Sunderland we have reached the point where that was never going to be enough. Their failure to create anything in the first half and convert what they did create in the second has left them staring down the barrel.

In terms of raw points they have faced similarly difficult positions but what they have never had is a collection of teams above them surging clear.

Catching up with a Leicester side who have reverted to a style that made them borderline unbeatable, and a Crystal Palace side ominously signing to Big Sam's tune, looks unlikely in the extreme.

It was frustrating that not one chance fell to Jermain Defoe on a day when Sunderland were, in the second half at least, more creative than usual.

Yet that is the problem in a nutshell.

Fabio Borini, in the team ahead of Wahbi Khazri because he is seen as a better goal scoring prospect, missed chances again that a Premier League striker should lap up. Adnan Januzaj was Sunderland's brightest attacker but could not make the difference in front of goal.

Seb Larsson created the best chance of the game with a stunning first time cross, but goals are not and have not looked particularly like coming from midfield.

Excluding Didier Ndong, who can frustrate but has a habit of winning the ball in the opponents half, meaning Defoe and Januzaj can get the ball close to goal, was a strange decision.

Khazri did not have much of a chance but could not find the right weight of pass when a big chance presented itself.

Perhaps the paucity of what has been presented in recent weeks is the reason why this felt like something of an improvement.

A gentle improvement was never going to be enough, however, and that is why the situation is so bleak.

Where that spark, surge, will come from is difficult to see.

Perhaps Ellis Short's absence from the Stadium of Light has not allowed him to see just how limited his side are.

He will know now.

He, like everyone, will have to face up to the increasingly likely prospect that this is the season when Sunderland will suffer relegation.

More performances like that second half might have kept Sunderland in touch over the course of the season. The atmosphere in the second half was that tantalizing glimpse of what could be.

It feels like too little, too late.