The turn-around, one must remember, has come after the 8-0 thumping by Southampton and more horrendous mistakes that had presented Arsenal with all three points on a plate. The much more determined performance shown against Crystal Palace was continued at the Stadium of Light. It may not be a fortress but a place anyway that other teams will know the Sunderland will not be a push-over.
The match was of two halves, with Roberto Martinez obviously getting at his players during half-time for being lethargic against a resolute Sunderland unwilling to allow their opponents to run the show. Gutsy effort made up for a lack of quality as they gave Everton no room by their pressing. Being more direct at going forward also helped to keep the away team at bay. Suffice to say though few chances were created.
After the break, both of Everton's full backs started to get forward after an obvious rollicking for being denied before. But although they were in the ascendency, Sunderland's defence and formation held out well. The only exception was the waited-for mistake by Liam Bridcutt this time with a woeful back pass that put Romelu Lukaku through but only to be denied by the quick reactions of an alert Costel Pantilimon diving at his feet.
A major change occurred with Poyet's introduction of Will Buckley to replace Adam Johnson, who was tied down with marking the threat from Leighton Baines. The former Brighton man injected some pace and thrust, badly missing in the Sunderland team so pedantic at times going forward. It was his run and energy that produced the free-kick for Seb Larsson's goal on 67 minutes. It was Everton's turn for a poor defensive wall exploited by John O'Shea that allowed the well-planned, bent shot from the Swedish international find the bottom corner.
Could Sunderland hold out was answered 15 minutes from the end when Samuel Eto'o threaded through a fine pass for Seamus Coleman to cut in and run onto goal trailed by Connor Wickham. The best that could be said of his tackle was that it was typical of a forward to bring the pacey Everton full back down. Despite fierce protestations, Baines scored from the penalty though Pantilimon, who otherwise had a good game, must have felt aggrieved with the ball sneaking under his 6' 5 body.
In the end, it was perhaps a fair result but one Sunderland was so close to stealing by their dogged performance by all the players. Poyet must go into the international break pleased that his team is back on track even if playing less tip-tapping football which to my mind is not suited to neither a relegation struggle nor the squad of players he has. The result looks all the more promising given the number of injuries to the small squad, including to both first-choice full-backs.
One controversial talking point was Tim Howard lying on the ball just outside the box with Steven Fletcher racing through. The American goalkeeper looked so pleased with himself to deny the goal opportunity and escape without a free-kick. But even if he did succeed not touching the ball with his hands, it surely was obstruction and would have been given if he was a defender. Referee Lee Mason hardly endeared himself to the fans but this one was surely for the rule books and a reprimand was needed.