Sunderland lay two significant ghosts to rest with breathtaking late win

If this was an afternoon to signal that a new era had begun, then it was some way to do it.

Sunday, 5th August 2018, 12:22 pm
Updated Sunday, 5th August 2018, 12:28 pm
Sunderland celebrate Josh Maja's equalising goal

Over 31,000 fans made their way through the turnstiles, putting their frustration with two years of dramatic decline to one side.

Sunderland were poor in the first half, gifting countless opportunities to a bright and physical Charlton Athletic side.

Perhaps understandably, the Black Cats looked nervous, not quite decisive enough on the ball and playing themselves into trouble on more than one occasion.

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But in the second half they rallied, Jack Ross serving notice of his tactical acumen by switching to an unfamiliar back three that immediately opened up more space for the Black Cats.

Lynden Gooch's winner meant that this was the first time since 2009 that Sunderland have on the opening day.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that Darren Bent's early goal to seal a win over Bolton Wanderers that day marked the beginning of two years of relative stability.

In more recent seasons Sunderland's slow starts have become all too common, a consequence of business in the transfer market that has invariably been both too little, and too late.

The Black Cats clearly have work to do in the coming weeks to finalise their squad, with a threadbare bench underlining the need for a couple of reinforcements.

Nevertheless, this win and the impact of the manager's substitutions backed up words from both himself and the ownership this week that an early start this summer has left the club in a 'reasonable position'.

It feels significant, too, that Sunderland came back to win in front of their own supporters.

Their abject home form has been a key feature of their decline in recent seasons.

Remarkably, they have won at home on just two occasions in the last seven years after falling behind.

Before Saturday, the most recent was the 3-2 win over Chelsea late in the 2015/16 season, with Jermain Defoe's firm strike one of the greatest moments in the stadium's history.

They have failed to produce a comeback in the two seasons since, and before that famous day you have to go back to December 11, 2011 to find the last example, when Seb Larsson's late free-kick sealed a win over Blackburn Rovers in Martin O'Neill's first game at the helm.

Sunderland's home form will be absolutely essential if they are to bounce back from the third tier at the first time of asking.

It has been a millstone in recent years but supporters will cautiously hope that his opening day win served notice of better times ahead.