THE day after Children in Need, here was Sunderland in need. They still are, if a little less so.
While good enough to be the better team locked in stalemate, the Black Cats still lack the key to prise one open into victory.
Both managers admitted as much in the aftermath, Steve Bruce again drawing attention to the strikers at his disposal, and those he could call on a year or so ago.
Now that is not to denigrate his current crop, because he did describe Darren Bent, Asamoah Gyan, Danny Welbeck and Fraizer Campbell as “arguably the best the club’s ever had”.
And inarguably, compared to Nicklas Bendtner, Stéphane Sessègnon, Ji Dong-Won and an injured Campbell, Connor Wickham likewise, the previous lot were a surer guarantee of goals.
Lest we forget, Sebastian Larsson is the Black Cats’ leading scorer. With three. And he is a midfielder. Who was suspended.
So neither wonder Bruce also admitted that a new forward is “the one thing that we’ve got to address” come January.
By then, this run of four games – Saturday’s at home to Fulham, more against Wigan Athletic and Blackburn Rovers and a trip to Wolves – will be history, and Bruce may be glad of as much.
The trouble with so-called must-wins is that, in a manner of speaking, you can only lose.
Like being the favourite in a cup-tie against minnows, win and you merely satisfy expectation, and who can get excited about that? Win, move on. Next.
Fail to do so, however, and the pressure escalates.
And so it goes; Wigan, this coming Saturday, now becomes even more of a must-win, and the most viscous of circles endures.
That – that this present run of games against opponents modest and nearby in the table constitutes for Sunderland a grand opportunity to garner points – is the theory.
In practice, there are of course few if any easy games in the Premier League. Especially, for Sunderland, against Fulham. The Wearside outfit have now won only three of 15 Premier League meetings with the Cottagers, and scored in just six of those.
They have failed to score in six of their last seven against them, including the latest five.
And since the last seven games between these two have produced a grand total of – wait for it – five goals, is it any wonder the Stadium of Light remained goalless on Saturday?
Is it remotely surprising, in these days when final-whistle boos are nigh-on the norm wherever a home side fails to win, that 4.45pm on Saturday was greeted with a brief burst of half-hearted discontent? At least the temporarily aggrieved had some consolation, and with it, hope.
For while a point was better for Fulham, Sunderland did – as they have done lately – play well.
Two games into his Premier League career, Keiren Westwood looks to the manor born, and the back four were scarcely troubled.
In midfield, Jack Colback has an air of calmness belying his age.
And pleasingly in attack, albeit perhaps with Brede Hangeland in mind, the Black Cats rarely went long.