Sunderland salvaged an unlikely away win in the dying seconds after a substandard performance against Rochdale at the Crown Oil Arena.
George Honeyman’s last minute winner sent a large boisterous away crowd into raptures in the Manchester sun as it left the Black Cats on joint 79 points with second-placed Barnsley - but most importantly, we had two games in hand.
As was typical of this Sunderland team in the post-Josh Maja era, performances were relatively average. The team were struggling far more to create and score goals, with new signing Will Grigg looking completely out of sorts from the outset.
For the game itself, Sunderland started typically sluggishly. It was almost as if the pressure was palpable for them, weighing on their backs like a tonne of bricks, which led to a disjointed performance.
That being said, the team still created some chances, with Rochdale goalkeeper Josh Lillis particularly impressive in keeping out a Will Grigg effort.
Just after this point, Dale took the lead through their leading marksman, Ian Henderson, against the run of play in the 27th minute when Henderson collected Joe Bunney’s centre and fired past Jon McLaughlin.
It was the last thing Sunderland needed as they had only begun to string a few chances together. To their credit, they responded in decent fashion after the goal.
Goalkeeper Lillis produced yet another fine save four minutes before the break when Max Power’s curling effort threatened to sneak into the top corner of his goal - which would have been the least they deserved.
Ten minutes into the second half, a darting run from Denver Hume brought him towards the edge of the box. He laid his pass off to Charlie Wyke, who spun his defender and arrowed a shot into the corner of the net.
It was a welcome relief for Wyke, whose first season at Wearside was severely disrupted due to injuries, which made this his first goal since September.
From this point onwards, Sunderland attempted to pile on the pressure without really garnering many opportunities.
Jack Ross brought on Bryan Oviedo and Kaziah Sterling for some fresh impetus in attack - and Oviedo impressed upon coming on. With minutes left, the Black Cats were getting closer and you could almost feel the chance coming.
In the 89th minute, the chance arrived. Dylan McGeouch and that man Oviedo were involved in the build-up when Oviedo’s persistence on the right paid off. His delivery into the six-yard area was turned home by Honeyman from a tight angle.
Such were the number of Sunderland fans inside the Crown Oil Arena that the majority of the stadium went into raptures. Honeyman ran around the pitch joyously before springing himself onto the ground, a dive that Tom Daley (or Harry Kane!) would be proud of.
It felt like a huge result - one that can be season-defining. The next step for Sunderland was to capitalize on it and win their games in hand to solidify themselves in the automatic promotion places.
They surely could do that, couldn’t they?