For the first time this season, it was Sunderland, rather than their opponents, who seized the initiative in the closing stages of a poor game and took three vital points.
That was all the more encouraging given Sunderland’s bench had, before the game at least, had an underwhelming look to it.
Injuries have taken their toll on Chris Coleman’s squad, yet his three subsitutions – at Burton Albion on Saturday – all made a superb contribution to the contest and guided Sunderland over the line.
Darron Gibson and James Vaughan have struggled for form since their arrival on Wearside, while Joel Asoro’s progress seemed to have stalled in 2017.
The arrival of a new manager has offered a fresh start, however, and Coleman says he will give anyone ‘with a glint in their eye’ the chance to impress.
“It’s never too late to make your mark at this level and we needed James in the last 20 minutes – his energy and aggression were tremendous, just what we needed,” said Coleman.
“It hasn’t been easy for him since he arrived at Sunderland – it hasn’t been easy for anybody.
“Everyone has had a tough time, and it’s not easy to come into that environment.
“But he still has that capacity to unsettle defenders and he was outstanding when he came on.
“Joel did well – he’s looked very lively, very quick, and he’s going to be needed.
“They are all going to be needed, because we’ve got a few lads on the treatment table who are going to be there for some time and, with respect, they can’t help us at the moment.
“Whoever you are, if you’re fit, you’re going to be in the frame.
“I don’t care who you are, or whether you are an international player.
“As long as I can see a glint in their eyes and they want to do something about our situation, they are going to get a chance.”
The late show from the Black Cats was greeted with euphoria in the away end, who saw their first win since Norwich City were beaten 3-1 at Carrow Road on the second weekend of the season.
Coleman celebrated with the fans on the final whistle after they sung his name for much of the last 20 minutes of a hard-fought contest, with victory lifting the Wearsiders two places to third-bottom spot.
The Sunderland boss has said that he wants to ensure those who have stood by the side during a torrid spell are ‘excited’, while winning back those who are ‘waiting’ for the team to halt their slide down the Championship.
Coleman said: “You can never can enough of that feeling as a manager.
“But the fans have waited a long time to savour a win and they deserved to enjoy the moment.
“It was a horrible day – raining, snowing, freezing, everything – but loads of them still made that journey, even though their team was bottom of the league with only one win all season.
“For all the negatives, sometimes there is a positive staring you in the face, and having that lot behind you, with no guarantees they were going to see a win, the least I could do was to go and thank them.”
Coleman now has a clear week to prepare his side for another crucial game against Jaap Stam’s struggling Reading, determined to put an end to Sunderland’s wretched home record.
Much work is still to be done, but he can take real solace from an energised support and a squad which has shown he has more options than he may first have thought.