It was that time of the year again for Sunderland AFC - managerial change, a poor run of form and the threat of relegation from the Premier League was on the cards.
This particular poor run of form culminated in a 4-0 defeat to Aston Villa, which spelled the end of Gus Poyet’s tenure at Sunderland.
In his place came experienced manager Dick Advocaat. Advocaat was deemed a safe pair of hands who could steer the club away from rocky waters.
Southampton were managed by another Dutchman, Ronald Koeman, and he had them playing fluid attacking football. Their front trio of Shane Long, Sadio Mané and Graziano Pelle were a handful and were scoring goals regularly.
Sunderland were 18th in the league table with four games remaining. Goals - or the lack of them - was the biggest issue for the team who finished the season as the second lowest scoring team, with relegated Burnley only scoring less.
This led to the signing of Jermain Defoe from Toronto FC - but he still appeared to be rusty and had only notched up three goals since arriving.
For the game itself, there was a sense that the team were in must win territory, and had to get the three points no matter what it took.
Whilst not creating many chances, they ‘worked their socks off’ according to their new manager, which led to a hard fought three points.
Advocaat started with three strikers up front - Defoe, Connor Wickham and the much maligned Danny Graham who actually played a starring role in this game with clever movement throughout.
Urged on by their supporters, Sunderland had done a lot of running but created little until Jordi Gomez’s first penalty after 21 minutes. That was awarded when Fonte kicked Jones in the head as he attempted to clear a dropping ball in the visitors’ box.
Gomez finished it with aplomb to ease the palpable tension that surrounded the Stadium of Light.
In typical Sunderland fashion, the team shot themselves in the foot just over a minute on from the goal after a defensivec calamity between goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon and captain John O’Shea.
A high ball arrived into the Sunderland box, and Pantilimon came to get it but seemingly did not tell John O’Shea and his defensive partner Sebastian Coates and presented the ball to Mane after tripping over them.
The goal typified the season for Sunderland and ensured that they were going to have to work hard to grind this win out.
In a low quality game, chances were at a premium. Southampton were strangely sub standard with their attacking trio very quiet.
Ten minutes into the second half, they found themselves behind again after conceding another penalty. Good work from Lee Cattermole saw him picking out the hard working Graham on the edge of the box.
Graham slid the ball across the Southampton box to the on rushing Defoe who was bundled to the floor by James Ward-Prowse. It was a contentious call that went the way of the home side.
Replays showed Ward-Prowse and Defoe had collided, but a foul was far less evident. Referee Mike Jones was convinced, however, and also showed Ward-Prowse a straight red.
Gomez duly converted his second spot kick to put Sunderland back in the lead, though they played like a team who were down to ten men.
In all honesty, they did all they could to scupper their chances of winning - with Argentinian defender Santiago Vergini intent on gifting another goal to the Saints similar to what he had done earlier in the season in the 8-0 debacle.
After trying to hold the ball at his own corner flag, Vergini surrendered possession to Nathaniel Clyne who crossed for Italian striker Graziano Pelle.
Pelle’s last-gasp strike almost brought Saints a point but for a fantastic point blank save from Pantilimon ensuring the home side earned a vital victory.
Advocaat praised the work rate and doggedness of his players despite the lack of attacking prowess or creativity on display.
“It was a very important win. Everything is still in our own hands with four games to go.
“Today we have seen what can be achieved if everyone works their socks off. It was great team performance and I am really proud of the way we got the three points.”