YOU HAVE to feel a touch of sympathy for those Sunderland fans forced to surrender to the M62 gridlock en route to Merseyside.
Of all the games to miss, this one has the potential to be THE defining encounter of Sunderland’s season.
It was yet another those displays from the escape artists extraordinaire, which seem to come along at this time of the season just when the fat lady is warming up her vocal chords
Had Sunderland come away empty-handed at Goodison Park, it wouldn’t have been curtains in quite the same manner as defeat would have been against Southampton, but it would have left the Black Cats realistically needing to pick up something from Arsenal or Chelsea.
But now? Now, Sunderland are in a position where victory against Leicester next Saturday may be sufficient to get them over the line, particularly after Hull’s defeat to relegated Burnley.
What a MAMMOTH win this was.
For the second year running at Everton too, after last season’s Boxing Day success at Goodison Park ultimately proved to be mightily significant in survival.
Any supporters - and there were hundreds - who arrived at Goodison late, didn’t necessarily miss much in the opening 45 minutes when Sunderland seemed content to get to half-time at 0-0.
It needed three smart saves from Costel Pantilimon to preserve parity at the interval, even if mid-table Everton lacked the intensity which had seen them win their previous six home games.
But the second half... it was yet another those displays from the escape artists extraordinaire, which seem to come along at this time of the season just when the fat lady is warming up her vocal chords.
Sunderland weren’t free-flowing or necessarily convincing going forwards. Quite the opposite, with their passing frequently too sloppy.
It needed a stellar display from the back four - particularly new central defensive pairing Wes Brown and Sebastian Coates - to prevent Everton converting their monopoly of possession into goals.
And it also required a hefty slice of fortune at the other end for Sunderland to get the goals which sent those fans who had made it to Merseyside into delirium.
Neither Danny Graham or Jermain Defoe knew a lot about their goals, but that was perhaps reward for their industry, as much as any striking prowess.
Graham, in particular, probably needed a goal which owed so much to fortune to end his wait to find the net in red and white at the 28th time of asking.
Fair play to the ex-Swansea man though. He’s never given up on his Sunderland career, despite being hawked around by the club and sent on loan to anyone who would take him.
Sunderland fans have rightly responded to the shows of sheer determination that they’ve seen from Graham over the last three games.
But there has been a fresh commitment surrounding the whole team under Dick Advocaat, not just Graham, and that is again propelling the club away from the precipice to the Championship.
One more big effort from Sunderland next Saturday and they’ll surely be there.