If Sunderland are to play and battle their way out of trouble – and they are finally showing signs of being able to do both – they need to keep 11 men on the field.
There might be cynics out there who will argue the Black Cats only win when they are down to 10 men.
Steven Pienaar saw red at Bournemouth for two bookable offences, but his side went on to win 2-1.
And the same fate befell Papy Djilobodji on Saturday in the 3-0 victory over Hull.
Granted, the defender received his second yellow card with a minute to go and the points were in the bag.
Unlike Pienaar’s exit – he seemed unlucky to receive a second yellow – there could be no quibble over the defender’s punishments.
The 27-year-old had first crudely gone through the back of Dieumerci Mbokani when Hull were on a counter-attack. He took one, as the cliche goes, for the team – the Tigers could quickly have been away.
And referee Lee Mason’s decision to jot the number five in his little black book at the death was no shock when he stuck out a leg and tripped sub Jarrod Bowen. The applause which followed his departure was a mix of sympathy and appreciation.
Appreciation of a job well done – not the foul of Bowen – given the overall performance he had produced.
For the second game running, the £8million summer buy from Chelsea was the pick of the central defence.
At Bournemouth, he outshone Lamine Kone and did so again at the Stadium of Light. He began hesitantly as he afforded Mbokani too much time and room on the outside inside two minutes to let fly with a shot which Jordan Pickford saved superbly.
Djilobodji soon found his feet, and defended well, including his alertness to cover where necessary.
He was also confident enough not only to bring the ball out but move forward as an offensive player.
While David Moyes will be happy that the former Werder Bremen loanee took another step to justifying his August outlay, the boss will be cross that he foolishly got himself dismissed.
But Moyes will be most peeved at the fact that he must now alter his back four for this Saturday’s daunting trip to Liverpool.
He would doubtless have been looking to send out the same defensive unit for the third match in a row, but now a one-game ban for Papy has torn up that plan.
It also removes an in-form player just when Sunderland need those sort of figures most – a match against the division’s top scorers.
Djilobodji has had his critics to date, having had a hand in a goal or two of the 20 the Black Cats conceded in the opening 10 games.
But Sunderland have leaked only one in the last 180 minutes and the way he has performed has been a big contributory factor as has been the growing understanding and teamwork of the defensive unit.
Billy Jones spoke last week about how good it would be if the side began to pick itself, just as it did in the second half of last season.
It could pick itself but for the suspensions, so the players’ discipline must match their new-found doggedness.