Sunderland picked up three incredibly valuable points with a superb display at the Stadium Of Light tonight as they beat Reading by three goals to move out of the relegation spots and restore some pride and faith on Wearside.
Much of the prematch talk was about how we'd line up for this one, and much to everyone's surprise it wasn't Danny Rose in the middle of the park but the familiar sight of Jack Colback and Seb Larsson. Not that anyone was giving too hoots about this after two minutes when James McClean opened the scoring.
An Adam Johnson corner was flapped at by Adam Federici in the Reading goal, and without a significant fist on the ball it sat up nicely on near the edge of the area for the under fire Irishman to slam the ball home low through a sea of bodies.
Once chance, one goal, but it wasn't the only bright spot as Sunderland took control from there onwards and pressed continually.
Seb Larsson rampaged forwards after playing a good one-two with Steven Fletcher and took on an early shot which had Federici again at full strength, and again looking unconvincing in palming the ball away.
Adam Johnson was next to cause some panic in a furious start to the game. Craig Gardner won the ball in midfield and played in Stephane Sessegnon to take a strike at goal. This was blocked, but only falling as far as Johnson who took a moment before drilling one low and inches the wrong side of the post.
In reply Reading's best chances fell to Nicky Shorey who was twice denied by blocking defenders in quick succession having got him in a good advanced position, but away from that the hosts were pretty much in cruise control.
Possession was held well, the defence standing firm and despite Reading seeing themselves a little further forward, the threat of them scoring seemed minimal.
Sessegnon provided another wake-up call on 22 minutes when he collected the ball on the edge of the area and turned Alex Pearce quickly to flash a shot wide of the mark.
A valuable second goal came just before the half hour mark when Steven Fletcher scored with the cheekiest of finishes. Some superb work by Danny Rose saw him force his way into the area before crossing low and finding the Scotland international who back-heeled the ball beyond Federici.
From then on through to half time it was simply a case of holding at where we were and sailing on to the whistle, although as the signal approached there was a double moment of concern to taint an otherwise flawless first half.
Danny Rose collided accidentally with Adam Le Fondre following a challenge with Gardner. Rose appeared to catch his knee in the collision and limped around the pitch gingerly through to to half time.
A somewhat cynical challenge from Job McAnuff saw Adam Johnson find himself in a similar predicament, causing a little concern for Martin O'Neill and Sunderland fans everywhere, but overall the first half was simply superb. Basically like all our second half's, but in the first. Weird.
Johnson couldn't continue in the second half and was replaced by Phil Bardsley, with Larsson moving wide and Gardner coming into the middle of midfield.
Reading came out slightly more positive than they did in the first half and had the better of the chances in the opening exchanges. The best of which was a free-kick from Shorey which had Simon Mignolet at full stretch to palm round the post.
Having weathered a mild storm of Reading attack we began to take more of a foothold in the game again.
A superb block from Carlos Cuellar denied a rampaging run from Jay Tabb and set up a counter attack. Rose in an advanced position got to the by-line and pulled back for Sessegnon but the ball was whipped off the Beninese striker's toes at the crucial moment.
Steven Fletcher was next to lead the charge forward beating three men before losing his footing in the area. A half-hearted penalty appeal went up from the crowd but nothing on the pitch, and rightly so. There was no decision to make.
Sessegnon was enjoying himself tonight and latched on well to a Fletcher flick to lash a powerful drive straight at Adam Federici - who hadn't really been too tested in the second period - before the injury bug struck us down.
Danny Rose was forced to succumb to his earlier injury and indicated to the bench he couldn't continue, leaving the pitch to a deserved standing ovation for a superb defensive performance.
Just a few minutes later Phil Bardsley - only on at half time for Adam Johnson - also had ot go off, and was replaced by Titus Bramble. The nature of Bardsley's injury seemed to be a bit of a mystery as he simply sat himself down and decided he couldn't continue, much to the chagrin of Martin O'Neill on the sideline, but to the quiet content of the Sunderland faithful.
The final ten minutes saw Sunderland take care of business - a nice change from the usual insistence on hitting the self destruct button.
Craig Gardner fired a tame effort at Adam Federici following good work from Sessegnon and Fletcher to put him in position, while at the other end Simon Mignolet did superbly to deny Noel Hunt's point blank header.
With little more than a minute left of injury time Stephane Sessegnon put the icing on the cake and added a third goal. Having out muscled Shaun Cummings he rounded Federici and passed the ball into an open net.
A year on from Sunderland having gained lift-off and momentum in Martin O'Neill's first game in charge of the club against Blackburn Rovers, it finally, at long last, feels like we might have turned another corner. Hopefully this sparks yet another winning run and turn around in fortunes.