Any positivity that Sunderland’s fifth successive Tyne-Wear derby victory in Dick Advocaat’s second game in charge was the start of a sprint to survival were washed away by a 1-4 home defeat to Crystal Palace and 1-1 draw with Stoke.
Instead of reinvigorating them, it perhaps imbued them with a false sense of “job done” and – not at all helped by the unexpected twin resurgence of Hull and Leicester – they are actually as low as they have been all season in 18th.
The gap to Leicester in 17th is a mere point, though they will be two shy of survival if the Foxes get anything against Chelsea. Only Hull and, at a push, QPR could be argued to have a run-in of comparable difficulty to the Black Cats, explaining why they have sunk as low as [1.45] to go down.
Sunderland’s remaining away matches are against Everton, Arsenal and Chelsea. The Gunners have the Premier League’s third-highest home point average and the Blues boast the best, suffering one loss in 32 between them. Meanwhile, the Toffees have reawakened with six straight Goodison Park wins in all competitions, and the Wearsiders have lost six of their past seven top-flight trips there.
Their last two Stadium of Light encounters are against Southampton – who thrashed them 8-0 at St Mary’s and have won nine in 11 against the bottom seven – and the team on the longest winning streak in the division, Leicester.
It isn’t just the fixtures that scream “doomed” either, it is the form – or complete lack thereof – that they are dragging into them: 11 points from 16 games since Christmas, four goals in nine outings, ten conceded in their latest five.
The one thing that is in their favour is that they have done it before, going from a run of one point in eight matches to taking 13 from their next five despite having to visit Manchester City (draw), Chelsea (win) and Manchester United (win) in that sequence.
However, the difference on that occasion was that they had already enjoyed one boom period under that manager (Gus Poyet), suffering one league reverse in nine between December 14 and February 1 and reaching the Capital One Cup final to prove that they had it in them.
Expertise in escapology has an expiry date too, as demonstrated by Wigan, who used to dig themselves out at the death every year but have now endured two relegations in three campaigns.