Defoe looks to home games as last-gasp penalty gives Sunderland hope
Stoke Ciety 1 Sunderland 1
Published 02/05/2016 | 02:30
The North East battle for survival resembles a pair of veteran boxers stumbling around the ring, scrambling for the knockout punch that ends the contest.
Sam Allardyce is back in the Premier League's bottom three and running out of time, but this result felt significant ahead of two potentially pivotal home games.
Jermain Defoe rescued a point in the fourth minute of added time from the penalty spot to breathe new life into Sunderland's Premier League safety mission.
Without Defoe, Sunderland would already have been relegated at around about the same time as Aston Villa.
The goal he scored here that gave Sunderland a draw they barely deserved was his 14th of the season.
Those 14 goals have delivered 12 points - something Black Cats fans will be very grateful for at this stage.
As he walked off the pitch, the first thing the 33-year-old striker asked for was the Newcastle score.
Given that Newcastle's next match is at Aston Villa, Defoe probably won't need to ask for it next Saturday after Sunderland's home game against Chelsea. Then comes their match in hand against Everton.
The odds are that Rafa Benitez's side will go into the final afternoon of the season on 36 points.
They will be at home to Tottenham, while Sunderland will be at Watford.
"We have to use these next two games to get ourselves into a situation where we are out of the bottom three going into the last game of the season," said Defoe.
"Whatever else happens, we want to be going to Watford knowing that, if we win, we will definitely be safe.
"I think it helps that we have got two home games. I can imagine the atmosphere is going to be electric and I am looking forward to that."
Apart from their game in hand, Sunderland have one clear advantage. Many in Allardyce's team, including Defoe, have been here before.
Sunderland have become what Southampton and Coventry were to an earlier generation. The club that always seems to survive.
Stoke ended a run of three successive defeats, but were left to reflect on referee Craig Pawson's significant moment, after Geoff Cameron was judged to have pulled down Defoe in the penalty area.
Marko Arnautovic had given Stoke the lead with his 11th goal of the season, which was his final contribution before departing with an injury and it could be one of his last appearances at the Britannia Stadium.
Stoke have hit deadlock in their attempts to agree a new deal with the Austria international. (© Daily Telegraph, London)