Aleksandar Mitrovic saves Newcastle in vital derby draw vs. Sunderland
Perhaps the feeling on Tyneside on Sunday night wasn't that of euphoria, but it was a damn sight better than the previous six derby games, all of which had ended in defeat for Newcastle United.
Losing the Tyne-Wear tussle is definitely an awful experience for Newcastle's fans but what has perhaps hurt more in recent times has been the lack of effort and understanding. At least Rafa Benitez was able to cajole his players into knowing the consequences of another defeat, and how hard the rest of the season would have been for Newcastle had they not turned it around.
Seasons can turn on one moment, whether it's a tackle, a clearance off the line or an important goal. In the great scheme of things, Aleksandar Mitrovic's equaliser in Sunday's 1-1 draw could yet prove to be priceless.
What it means is that Newcastle fans won't spend the next two weeks fuming over a derby defeat and looking at the table knowing that they were three points behind Sunderland and four against Norwich. In fact, they will head to Norwich in a fortnight knowing they are still in touch with their rivals and believing they can still turn this around.
But make no doubt about it, the margins for error are even smaller now. Had Newcastle beaten Sunderland, they'd be looking forward to a game against Norwich and fully expecting to climb out of the bottom three at Carrow Road. Unless there is a huge scoreline to overturn the goal difference, that isn't likely to happen now.
Significantly, Sunderland will also head to Norwich in another crunch weekend of fixtures in a few weeks, which means somebody will be dropping points. Things may not be in Newcastle's hands any more but Mitrovic's equaliser might have handed the Magpies a tiny bit of much-needed momentum.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Rob Elliot, 8 -- He's going to win player of the season hands down. Three more huge saves denied Sunderland a victory that could have sunk the Magpies.
DF Daryl Janmaat, 6 -- The Dutchman was forced off before the end after a battling display.
DF Jamaal Lascelles, 7 -- Won plenty of aerial battles and the crowd enjoyed the moment he cleaned out Jermain Defoe at the end.
DF Chancel Mbemba, 7 -- His presence made a difference for Newcastle and he'll keep his place as long as he's fit.
DF Jack Colback, 6 -- Played out of position and committed nine fouls but his booking means he'll miss the trip to Norwich.
MF Moussa Sissoko, 5 -- Had plenty of touches but failed to do anything with most of them. Fans' patience is starting to wear thin.
MF Jonjo Shelvey, 6 -- Had a great chance to level the game from a free-kick. Ultimately, he should have left it for Georginio Wijnaldum.
MF Georginio Wijnaldum, 6 -- A wonderful cross for the equaliser but it covered up another average display.
MF Andros Townsend, 6 -- Some good runs down the right and almost found a way through before enduring the hook.
FW Aleksandar Mitrovic, 7 -- Got on the end of something for a crucial equaliser but missed a real sitter in the first half.
FW Ayoze Perez, 6 -- His work rate can't be faulted but he seems to lack a much-needed clinical touch in the box.
MF Siem De Jong, 7 -- Replaced Colback after 62 minutes. Put himself about and created a couple of half-chances.
MF Vurnon Anita, 6 -- Replaced Janmaat after 71 minutes and coped well despite playing out of position.
FW Papiss Cisse, 6 -- Replaced Townsend after 75 minutes and tried to get on the end of a couple of crosses. Yet he looked out of condition after so long out of action.
Lee Ryder is the chief sports writer for the Newcastle Chronicle, and follows Newcastle from academy to first team. Follow him on Twitter: @lee_ryder.