An impressive team performance, marked by strong displays from skipper Lee Cattermole and U.S. full-back DeAndre Yedlin, brought Sunderland the point needed against Arsenal on Sunday to edge themselves out of the Premier League bottom three.
Cattermole was once again at the heart of significant moments all over the pitch as manager Sam Allardyce saw his team begin the final run-in, with its desperate fight against relegation, with a precious draw.
Cattermole made important tackles and blocks in defence, offered intelligent forward passes and even went close in the first half to scoring a rare goal. Yedlin was a livewire, sound at the back and a constant threat to Arsenal when advancing down the right wing.
But this was also a robust collective effort in which all members of the Sunderland team played their part. Vito Mannone was generally dependable in goal, Lamine Kone and Younes Kaboul did all that Allardcye wanted in the heart of defence and it was difficult to identify a weak link.
Allardyce said beforehand that he wanted eight points from the games still to play. So he now he needs two wins and a draw from home games against Chelsea and Everton, and visits to Stoke and Watford.
It is a tough but not impossible run-in and the only serious issue -- who, among Sunderland, Newcastle United and Norwich City, go down -- may not be decided until the final Premier League games on May 15.
But if Sunderland can maintain the never-say-die approach they had in Sunday's game against a technically superior team that will finish in the top four, survival remains a distinct possibility.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Vito Mannone, 7 -- There was one dangerous charge from his penalty area in the second half, luckily unpunished, but the Italian keeper was otherwise faultless, made important saves and seemed in control of his box whenever Arsenal menaced.
DF DeAndre Yedlin, 8 -- Further signs of improvement, both in defence and when charging down the right wing. The U.S. full-back is unrecognisable from the error-prone player of earlier in the season.
DF Younes Kaboul, 7 -- Another gritty display at the heart of defence reduced Arsenal's chances of a breakthrough.
DF Lamine Kone, 7 -- Did all that was required in defence, again justifying Allardyce's belief in the Kaboul/Kone pairing in central defence.
DF Patrick van Aanholt, 6 -- Not at his best going forward, apart from an excellent first-half free kick that narrowly missed the target, but competent in defence.
MF Jan Kirchhoff, 7 -- Again proved the importance of playing the ball with vision and ambition. His midfield presence diminished once he had been clattered, albeit innocently, by Olivier Giroud.
MF Lee Cattermole, 9 -- A workhorse for Sunderland. Difficult to fault anything he did, from important work in his own penalty area to intelligent passing up front. On his day an impressive leader.
MF Yann M'Vila, 7 -- Justified Allardyce's faith, despite recent dips in form, with lots of graft and some good passing.
MF Fabio Borini, 7 -- Ran himself into the ground and fought for every ball. Continued the good form he's been showing of late.
MF Wahbi Khazri, 7 -- His best performance in weeks, with energy and perseverance galore.
FW Jermain Defoe, 7 -- Sharp at the front and might have scored, but always willing to race back to help when defensive needs presented themselves.
MF Duncan Watmore, NR -- A serious threat to any defence, made light of his recent injury layoff and threatened Arsenal from the moment he arrived for Borini in the 74th minute. One of these days, his endeavour and invention will bring a Premier League hat trick.
MF Seb Larsson, NR -- Replaced Kirchhoff in the 78th minute. Sheer workrate and powers of distribution make him a good man to call upon as a substitute, unlucky to start on the bench.