Sunderland finally took all their positives from recent games and put them together into one authoritative 90 minutes of football to comprehensively beat Reading at the Stadium Of Light. Here is what we made of it.
What The Gaffer Said
A noticeably relieved Martin O'Neill was full of praise for just about everyone following the game. He told safc.com:
It was a great performance, very spirited. We scored three good goals and we won the game convincingly.
The early goal was very important because recently we've been chasing games and sometimes we've given ourselves mountains to climb.
It was great to score early. I thought there were signs that James [McClean] is returning to the form we've seen from him before.
In terms of the scoreline Sessegnon's goal made it a fantastic win.
That goal will be a boost to his confidence. He also showed signs of returning to that form he has previously showed.
The fans were absolutely terrific. Of course they were apprehensive and nervous about the game, but they were very supportive.
If we can give that effort and commitment every week at the Stadium of Light the crowd will stay with us.
In tangible terms there isn't too much different in this to his recent descriptions of defeats, which suggests someone was going to be on the end of a result like this from Sunderland sooner or later.
Spirited display, players creeping back to their best form, increasing confidence, and exceptional support from the stands have all been themes of recent post-match reflections from O'Neill.
Of course, it was the result that was the part that has changed, and it was a hugely welcome change at that.
You have to take into account the poor quality of the opposition, but you can't help but feel that is a result that has been coming for weeks.
We have played like that in spells - usually when behind - in every one of the last few games only to lose out to stupid individual errors. Against Reading all that was good from the previous games was put together to produce an authoritative 90 minutes of football.
Chances were created, goals were scored, tackles won, and defending done. Given our upcoming fixtures it will be a tough result to build on, but it was a huge three points.
Sessegnon Enjoying His Football
A lot has been made of Stephane Sessegnon's dip in form this season with Martin O'Neill himself suggesting that it is a result of having his head turned in the summer and struggling to come to terms with a big move not happening for him.
He has been improving for a while, though he never really looked like his old bubbly self - until this game.
Sessegnon produced the kind of livewire performance we grew accustomed to seeing from him last year and finally looked like he was genuinely enjoying his football again. Long may it continue, because on this form he is an incredible asset.
Shifting Sunderland Sands
Every manager has their favourites. It is just something we have to accept about football I think. For a long time, though, Phil Bardsley seems to have been an undroppable favourite of managers at Sunderland.
You have to wonder if that has changed now and, furthermore, whether it is evidence of Martin O'Neill slowly putting his stamp on the club and raising the bar.
After a desperately poor showing against Chelsea, the former Manchester United full back was dropped to the bench, despite being the only specialist right back in the entire first team squad.
The object here is not to have a go at Bardsley specifically, but simply use him as an example. At various points this season O'Neill has dropped Sessegnon, McClean, and now Bardsley, who are the last two Players of the Year and the last Young Player of the Year at the club. Evidence indeed of the shifting sands at Sunderland upon which no one the manager inherited can afford to take their footing for granted.
We implored Jack Colback be given a rest a few weeks ago and his performance in this game fully vindicated that. Having been relegated to the periphery of the side in recent weeks, the academy product looked fresh and full of energy.
He used the ball well and gave his back four plenty of protection. It was back to something like his performances of a year ago and served as a timely reminder of what a good young player he is and the importance of looking after him properly.
You Can't Tell A Thing From A Formation
When the team was announced I must admit to being stunned by the response from many fans. There seemed to be a genuine feeling that by failing to partner Connor Wickham with a fit-again Steven Fletcher Martin O'Neill had surrendered the initiative before a ball was kicked and was playing for a draw.
Formations themselves do not set the tone for a team's performance. George Graham's famous '1-0 to the Arsenal' side were 4-4-2 and defensive to a fault, where as other teams don't have a striker at all yet play very attacking football.
People have to get themselves out of this antiquated idea that a) 4-4-2 is an intrinsically attacking formation and b) only naming one striker in a line-up denotes a defensive motive. It just doesn't work like that.
Tempo, line, and attitude determine attacking intent, not mathematics, and Sunderland got them all spot on from the off.