Mike Phelan brings his Hull City side to the Stadium of Light tomorrow in the first true relegation six-pointer of the season.
Traditionally, Sunderland have failed to make games against those teams around them count, but anything other than victory tomorrow will render the battling three-points gained at Bournemouth meaningless such is the chasm between bottom place and the teams hovering around the lower reaches of the table.
Billed in some quarters as a grudge-match between David Moyes and the man he booted from the assistant's position when he took over at Manchester United, the Sunderland boss reacquaints himself with Mike Phelan in a beat-the-drop whopper.
Pre-match jitters may well be exorcised by the opportunity to extend some goodwill to mark 'Charlie Hurley Day'. The great man will take to the pitch with a host of other legendary names from the past, and a new crowd surfer bearing Hurley's image will be launched.
The club have even dusted off the old gates bearing the man's name from the former training ground which had stood decaying since Sunderland moved to the Academy of Light in 2003. The wrought iron affairs will be officially 'opened' earlier in the day.
Technically a case of almost-as-you-were, the only new absentee from the Bournemouth game is Steven Pienaar, suspended following his red card.
The big news, of course, is that we won't be seeing Lee Cattermole in a red-and-white shirt much this side of Easter 2017. The talisman midfielder is out for around four months following surgery on a hip injury. Catts has only played 176 minutes this season and last featured six weeks ago in the home defeat to Crystal Palace.
Jack Rodwell is still injured. The Sunderland midfielder hasn't featured in a winning side since Charley Hurley was a lad.
Jermain Defoe has the opportunity to mark the game with his 150th career goal. The 34-year old, who is still banging them in with satisfying regularity, needs just one more to become the eighth player in Premier League history to reach the golden number.
Some have claimed Moyes' big decision will be whether to line-up his side as a 4-4-2 with Victor Anichebe available - recovered sufficiently from the cracked-ribs he played with in his storming performance at the Vitality Stadium two weeks ago.
But, the Sunderland boss has indicated that he has no intention of risking a traditional two-up-front formation for such a vital match, saying:
When you play a 4-4-2 formation you have to be happy to concede a lot of possession, unless you're an excellent side at it.
And with Sunderland not being an "excellent side" at pretty much anything, Moyes will not feel his midfield are capable of keeping the ball sufficiently well enough to line-up with just four bodies in there.
Regardless, Anichebe was more of a wide man playing off the left shoulder of Defoe for much of the game at Bournemouth, and Moyes must surely be looking to repeat the tactic which paid such dividends for the visit of Hull City.
Who Moyes selects to partner Didier Ndong in the middle will also be key. His options extend to Paddy McNair or even Jason Denayer who lined up there in the Checkatrade Trophy last week. The game may come too soon still for Seb Larsson to start. Duncan Watmore is a shoe-in after his expoits for the England Under-21s during the week.
Hull are down to the bare bones of an already-limited squad. Mike Phelan has eight players missing, including strikers Will Keane, Abel Hernandez and Adama Diomande. Scotland winger, Shaun Maloney, is also notably ruled out, as are defenders Alex Bruce and Andrew Robertson.
Some Interesting Stats
Sunderland have kept a clean sheet in 12 of their last 20 home games.
Hull City have scored in 12 of their last 20 away games.
Neither side has kept a clean sheet this season
Victor Anichebe hasn't scored in back-to-back games since 2012.
Robert Snodgrass has been directly involved in half of Hull's 10 league goals this season.
Sunderland are 11/10 favourites for the win. Hull are priced at 13/5, the draw 23/10.
No one is relegated in November, but you can be all-but-gone come December, so Sunderland simply have to win.
If we can not beat a depleted Hull side, in front of a home crowd welcoming the greatest player ever to pull on a red-and-white shirt, then winter looks bleak.
Henchard's punt: 3-1 victory, but it will still be a desperately tense affair with Sunderland looking at risk of losing it until the 93rd minute.