WITH 11 minutes of this match remaining, Gus Poyet could have been forgiven for coming to the conclusion that he used up all of his luck in last seasonâ€™s great escape.
Having seen his Sunderland team battered from pillar to post in recent weeks, another calamitous error from Wes Brown had gifted Crystal Palace a way back into this relegation six-pointer after Steven Fletcherâ€™s opener.
There looked like only one winner at that stage as Palace, spurred on by a vociferous home support and a rejuvenated Wilfried Zaha, came forward at will. Yet in an instant, Poyetâ€™s luck appeared to turn at a ground where the former Brighton manager was never going to be afforded the best of receptions. A powerful run across the penalty area from Will Buckley â€“ one of the Uruguayanâ€™s star players during his time on the south coast â€“ set up Jordi GÃ³mez for a first-time strike that flew into the Palace net.
To compound the home sideâ€™s misery, the captain Mile Jedinak was dismissed after being shown a second yellow card in the dying minutes before Fletcherâ€™s second of the night rounded things off.
â€œIt means more than anyone can think,â€ Poyet said. â€œItâ€™s been a difficult couple of weeks. We had to get back to doing the basic things well and we needed a little bit [of luck] as well. The only way to get rid of the atmosphere that has been affecting us was to win a match and thankfully we have done that now.â€
After conceding 10 goals in their previous two matches, Poyetâ€™s reaction had been to drop the goalkeeper Vito Mannone and Brown â€“ both guilty of horrendous mistakes in the 2-0 defeat to Arsenal. But the spectre of the 8-0 mauling by Southampton in their last away game still appeared to be haunting Santiago Vergini inside the first 30 seconds.
The Argentinianâ€™s own goal at St Maryâ€™s had begun their spectacular implosion on that occasion, so his manager must have been relieved to see Phil Dowd not award a penalty when the defender clearly made contact with Fraizer Campbellâ€™s shin.
Given that Sunderlandâ€™s winless run in the Premier League on Monday nights stretched back more than 12 years, there was even more incentive for the hosts. But Poyetâ€™s side, having weathered the early storm, gradually began to find their feet.
Their opening goal still came as something of a surprise, however, with the Palace defender Brede Hangeland guilty of playing Patrick van Aanholt onside to deliver an inch-perfect cross for Fletcher to head home just after the half-hour mark. Palace were quick to respond as Zaha found space down the right flank and appeared to be brought down by Van Aanholt, even if the initial challenge took place just outside the box.
Much to Neil Warnockâ€™s chagrin on the touchline, Dowd once again turned down the appeals on what was turning into a frustrating night for the Palace manager. â€œItâ€™s so disappointing when weâ€™ve played so well â€“ how weâ€™ve lost that game I donâ€™t know,â€ he said. â€œThe lads couldnâ€™t have given more but we need to start making our own luck. Major decisions change games and weâ€™ve been on the receiving end of some bad ones in the last few matches.â€
A different Palace had emerged after half-time, no doubt with their managerâ€™s words still ringing in their ears. Four successive corners eventually came to nothing but it was not long until they were level as all of Poyetâ€™s worst nightmares suddenly returned in an instant. Zaha bamboozled the Sunderland defence with a jinking run before picking out the unmarked Marouane Chamakh at the back post. Somehow, Costel Pantilimon managed to keep it out but when Campbell backheeled the ball back into the danger area, Brown â€“ introduced for the injured Van Aanholt in the first half â€“ inexplicably volleyed into his own net via a post.
That seemed to be the turning point as Palace pressed on but they had not reckoned upon GÃ³mezâ€™s intervention. A free signing from Wigan in the summer who has been used sparingly by Poyet, the Spaniard has had a knack of scoring crucial goals throughout his career in England. None will feel as crucial to his manager as this one though. – The Guardian