Sunderland showed here so much of what has been lacking this season, and while the table looks much as it did before, Chris Coleman will be bouyed by what he saw.
They competed fiercely in what was an extraordinary game, asking questions of the Middlesbrough team and helping to create an outstanding atmosphere in the Stadium of Light.
They bounced back from a collapse at the start of the second half and finally, refused to buckle in adversity.
Callum McManaman's last minute strike was richly deserved reward for a spirited response and while they need wins and wins alone, this display offered some hope for the final twelve games.
The brilliance of Patrick Bamford looked to have put their relegation fight in dire straits and their chronic defensive problems remain, but this resilience has been long overdue.
It had been a ferocious, testy first half in which quality was lacking but commitment was most certainly not.
Coleman had called for his players to remove any nerves from the Stadium of Light through their performance and they certainly did that, starting on the front foot and winning a number of challenges.
Joel Asoro had almost scored within 30 seconds, picking up the ball and firing over from range.
When the opening goal came it was fully deserved. Adam Matthews launched a long throw into the box from the right flank, headed on by Josh Maja. Ryan Shotton's clearing header was desperately poor and Asoro was quickest to react, stabbing an effort past Darren Randolph.
The atmosphere inside the ground was superb but it came to Sunderland's cost after 25 minutes, Jake Clarke-Salter wildly out of control as he cleaned out Adama Traore. The Middlesbrough players surrounded referee Tim Robinson who duly produced a red card.
It always felt as if Traore's contribution would be defining. The winger's electric pace was a constant threat and he should have scored half an hour in, blazing over from the edge of the area after George Friend cleverly worked an overlap and cut the ball back across the box from the left.
Sunderland were suffering, but Traore evened up the numbers when he shoved Bryan Oviedo to the ground as Middlesbrough tried to work a short corner.
The 22-year-old reacted furiously, attempting to square up to the fourth official as he left the field. Team-mate Adam Clayton had to physically restrain him as he was ushered down the tunnel.
The visitors had the better of the contest but that the Black Cats made it to half-time ahead.
Within six minutes of the restart they were behind.
The equaliser was a superb individual effort, Patrick Bamford turning in the box and firing past a helpless Lee Camp. The second goal, just two minutes later, was a lapse purely of Sunderland's own making. They dithered on the ball near their own goal, Britt Assombalonga bursting in front of John O'Shea and drawing the foul from Camp. Grant Leadbitter stepped up and sent the Sunderland goalkeeper the wrong way with a nerveless penalty.
If that turn of events felt typical of Sunderland's capacity for self-implosion this season, then their response most certainly did not.
They were back on the front foot and quickly level, Oviedo crossing from the byline and substitute Jonny Williams catching Randloph out with an excellent first time finish.
Both managers made changes but it was Bamford who again proved to be the difference, racing on to a through ball from Muhamed Besic, taking Camp out of the equation with his first touch and scoring with his second.
Sunderland kept pushing and Callum McManaman drew one fine save from Randolph before breaking free at the back post to convert Oviedo's corner.
He celebrated wildly and while the mini-league that Sunderland must top to survive still does not make for easy reading, they have at least rediscovered their spirit under Coleman.
Sunderland XI: Camp; Matthews, Kone, O'Shea, Clarke-Salter, Oviedo; Cattermole, McNair (Williams, 41) Honeyman (McGeady, 80); Asoro, Maja (McManaman, 65)
Subs: Steele, Jones, Browning, Robson
Middlesbrough XI: Randolph; Shotton, Ayala, Gibson, Friend; Leadbitter (Clayton, 76), Besic; Traore, Downing (Howson, 76), Bamford, Assombalonga (Harrison, 62)
Subs: Dimi, Cranie, Fry, Baker
Bookings: Cattermole, 25 Maja, 45 Leadbitter, 54 Honeyman, 63 McGeady, 85 Oviedo, 90
Red Card: Clarke-Salter, 25 Traore, 37