A Carlos Cuellar own goal and an Aaron Lennon strike in the space of three second-half minutes was enough to give Tottenham three precious points against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
John O'Shea had given the Black Cats the lead against the run of play with his first goal in three years, three months and three days from close range in the first half, but Spurs staged a dramatic comeback to claim a win in their last game of 2012.
Both teams seemed keen on pressurising the other into a mistake early on, but it was Spurs who eventually gained the upper hand, forcing Martin O'Neill's side to turn over possession on a regular basis.
Although the visitors were enjoying most of the possession, clear cut chances were hard to come by, although Emmanuel Adebayor did hit the bar from two yards out when a goal seemed certain from Jermain Defoe's pass.
Sunderland's best chance of taking the lead appeared to be from set pieces, and so it proved to be the case as O'Shea put his side in the lead after 40 minutes.
After Carlos Cuellar fired a warning to Spurs two minutes earlier after he fired his header from Adam Johnson's corner over the bar, O'Shea pounced on a loose ball from a free-kick inside Tottenham's area, much to the delight of the sizeable crowd at the Stadium of Light.
If Andre Villas-Boas went in at half time struggling to figure out how his side's dominance wasn't converted into a lead, he didn't have to wait for long before that was the case.
Soon after the second half got under way, Cuellar turned the ball into his own net from a corner, and then 120 seconds later, some nimble footwork from Lennon and a tidy finish ensured the north London side were ahead for the first time in the game.
As Sunderland pressed forward for an equaliser and bombarded Tottenham's box with dangerous crosses, the away side looked to pinch and steal before breaking at speed at the other end.
Not long after taking the lead, Bale's charging run and cross put Defoe clear on goal with enough time to take a touch, however the Englad striker somehow contrived to stumble and miss his chance, although Simon Mignolet deserves some credit in the Sunderland goal.
Adebayor then passed up a glorious chance to score his first Premier League goal since the north London derby in November after latching on to a delightful flick from the newly arrived Clint Dempsey, but placed his finish too close to Mignolet.
Just before that chance came the game's most controversial moment. Bale, charging through on goal, tumbled under a challenge from Craig Gardner in the penalty area, only to be given a yellow card despite replays suggesting there was contact.
Spurs were forced onto the back foot and could have been made to regret their missed chances as Sunderland continued with their bombardment, but they held firm thanks to some excellent work from the sublime Hugo Lloris to claim three points that move them, temporarily at least, into the top three.
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