Seven games to go and there are none bigger for Sunderland than this Saturday’s live or die meeting with West Brom.
Sam Allardyce admitted after the derby that we are creeping ever closer to must win territory with games running out and mathematically, we’re still not there yet.
But the magnitude of this match can not be lost on anyone.
Win and Sunderland will leap out of the bottom three again, unless Norwich manage to beat Newcastle, and in my view that wouldn’t be the worst result in the world, with us still to go to Carrow Road ourselves.
But it’s not just about the immediate impact on the league table, and this is something I touched on last week, it’s about how one win could transform our mentality ahead of the final decisive six games of the season.
You often hear the question being put to managers in post match briefings: “How much more than three points is this win worth to your team?”
It might sound silly at face value, but the reality is you’ll often see managers nodding enthusiastically in agreement with the reporter’s tone.
The impact of a home win now would send a message to Sunderland’s rivals that we are up for this fight and are going nowhere.
It would enthuse the squad who keep hearing they are playing well, but of late have had little in terms of points to show for it: it would help to convince them they are heading in the right direction.
It would generate real belief among the fans too who can be like an extra man at this stage of the season, particularly at home where we can create a hugely partisan atmosphere in the remaining weeks.
There is nothing new to any of this: the power of confidence has been integral to sporting success since the first ball was kicked or the first race run.
Legendary NFL coach Vince Lombardi, who turned the Green Bay Packers from no hopers to serial winners in the 1960s said of his struggling team: “You’d be surprised how much confidence a little success will bring.”
He wasn’t often wrong.
Beating West Brom could be the catalyst to Sunderland’s survival and as I wrote last week, could lead on to us defeating Leicester and winning at Norwich too.
I was a little surprised by the reaction to last week’s column: being positive isn’t always common practise amongst writers who tend to lean closer to realism, particularly in this harsh world of instant judgement on social media.
That scenario is unlikely, but I genuinely believe it’s achievable if we get that first win out of the way.
For the record, I got shot down for offering positive comments on England too after their excellent win over Germany in Berlin on Saturday night.
Roy Hodgson’s team were a joy to watch playing with a verve, energy and commitment we haven’t seen against a leading nation for quite some time, reason certainly for optimism.
England have a chance to make good progress at this Summer’s European Championships and indeed at the World Cup in two years time.
Being honest about that is not what I would call creating expectation or getting carried away by one result; we can work with the England team by helping to create a positive mindset within which they are able to flourish.
By nature I tend and prefer to think positively, despite being an Englishman used to glorious failure and years of bumpy realism supporting this incredible club of ours.
And it’s the same with Sunderland: is this team not better than the ones who have scraped through in the final throes of the previous three seasons?
I think so.
And is this manager not more in control of his destiny than those who have successfully seen us survive before?
I’m sure of it.
Let’s celebrate the way this team is playing under Big Sam and help him to make the possible probable.