Ever since arriving at the Stadium of Light, the base camp target for Sam Allardyce has been for Sunderland to average a point per game.
During his own tenure, Allardyce has managed to do that, with a respectable 16 points from 15 outings as Sunderland boss.
But the measly tally of three points from those harrowing opening eight games – when Sunderland were alarmingly short on fitness and cohesion – continue to dog the Black Cats’ hopes of remaining in the Premier League.
With Sunderland yet to pass the 20-point mark with only 15 games to go, hope is fading fast on the terraces, particularly with a daunting month ahead on the fixture list.
Not even the Houdini-acts of recent seasons are comforting supporters about Sunderland’s survival prospects this time around.
But a look in the history books suggests Sunderland’s place in the Championship is far from confirmed yet, even if they are hovering at the cliff-edge.
Allardyce has faced this exact same situation before, and prevailed.
Just two seasons ago at Upton Park, Allardyce appeared destined for the axe after his West Ham side had managed just one Premier League win in 10 to leave themselves deep in trouble.
The Hammers boasted a total of only 19 points from 23 games – the exact same tally Sunderland currently have on the board.
But far from meekly succumbing to relegation, West Ham won seven out of their last 15 encounters, to finish in 13th spot on 40 points.
For all Sunderland’s Great Escape was miraculous that season, West Ham’s wasn’t too shabby either.
The big difference between that season and this though, is the quantity of teams locked closely together on low points tallies.
After 23 games of 2013-14, Norwich – who would eventually be relegated – lay in 12th spot on 24 points.
At present, Everton occupy 12th. They have 29 points.
It was a similar story last season, when Sunderland were sitting relatively healthy in 14th on 23 points.
None of the bottom seven in each of the last two years, have averaged more than a point per game at this stage.
This time around only four teams haven’t managed that feat – Norwich, Newcastle, Sunderland and Aston Villa.
The points swing towards the bottom teams has stemmed from a couple of factors.
Rarely is a team cast adrift as much as Villa (albeit they have recovered respectability over recent weeks) with the sides above them benefiting from those points.
And there have been so many upsets at the top end of the league, that those spoils have filtered down.
That’s the big problem for Allardyce.
While Sunderland have taken seven points from their last four games, the continued ability of their relegation rivals to put points on the board renders Sunderland’s efforts insufficient.
This year, a low tally of 35-36 is unlikely to be enough to survive.
Allardyce has made it crystal clear that he is looking for Sunderland to get 38 points from 38 games.
But even that might not be sufficient. Sunderland may need to reach that traditional “magic number” of 40 points.
Lightning needs to strike twice for Allardyce to enjoy a happy ending from what appears to be an increasingly bleak situation.