It was only a few weeks ago when Gus Poyet confessed frankly that his floundering Sunderland side required a miracle to retain their Premier League status, after their 5-1 drubbing at White Hart Lane.
It was only a fortnight ago when Sunderland had lost seven of their last nine matches.
When Vito Mannone spilled Samir Nasri's strike at the Etihad Stadium, to relinquish the three points they were on course to secure, it seemed the Italian had done likewise to Sunderland's hopes of avoiding relegation. The Premier League's failure to deduct points for their fielding of an ineligible player, in South Korean striker Ji Dong-Won, was the start of the miracle Poyet had implored the gods to bring upon him.
Their stunning victory at Stamford Bridge, to breach Jose Mourinho's imperious home record, sparked this seeming inexorable great escape. The value on Fabio Borini's ice-cool 82nd minute penalty is priceless. The confidence Sunderland extracted from their near-miss at the Etihad has seemingly propelled them towards safety.
They were so sanguine in dispatching Cardiff with ease last week to make the prospect of retaining their top-flight status much more viable. Their excellent victory at Old Trafford on Saturday prompted Poyet to claim it would be "crazy" for his resilient team to regress into the Championship, and rightly so. The Uruguayan has, despite the plethora of disheartening defeats under his inconsistent stewardship, steadied the Sunderland ship after the unceremonious rule of Paulo di Canio and instilled spirit into his team, even guiding them to the Capital One Cup final in February.
He is so indebted to Fabio Borini, the tireless Italian on-loan from Liverpool who has aided their charge to emergence from the bottom three, and Vito Mannone, who has been outstanding between the goalmouth to commonly mask the deficiencies of the back-four before him. His recent nurturing of Connor Wickham should be in Pro-Licence courses, and so should his ability to deprive his team of fear at imposing grounds. His faith in Adam Johnson, who seemed isolated under Di Canio, has paid off, the former Manchester City winger scoring eight goals and is even touted for a World Cup place with England.
Sunderland exuded confidence at Old Trafford, out-playing a Manchester United side depleted of ideas with sheer composure. Poyet was prudent in profiting from a period of rare consistency in an incredibly unpredictable season for the Black Cats with an unchanged line-up from the team which mauled Cardiff and won at Chelsea.
Despite their wonderful preservation of compact shape, there were occasional lapses of concentration. Luis Nani should have scored, but Sebastian Larsson punished United for their profligacy. Wickham, who has been an astonishing revelation of late, held off Darren Fletcher with his imposing frame and delivered a beautifully-flighted cross from which Larsson swept in Sunderland's opener.
They were so disciplined in executing Poyet's defensive demands to perfection and attacked with such gusto, Emmanuele Giaccherini and Borini striking the woodwork as United searched desperately for the equaliser.
Yet, complacency must be avoided at all costs. They welcome fellow strugglers West Bromwich Albion to the Stadium of Light on Wednesday before Swansea are the visitors on the final day. The great escape has not yet been ensured, but the miracle Poyet implored the gods to bring upon him is in full swing.
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