Football matches are invariably tales of two halves, but Sunderland's encounter with Southampton at the Stadium of Light was the cliche Tale of Two Halves. The visitors utterly dominated the first 45 minutes before the Black Cats sprung into action and salvaged the game in the second, ultimately claiming a 2-2 draw.
The opening half hour demonstrated just why Gus Poyet's side are so worried about staying up this season. It was a woeful performance: Southampton cut through their hosts at will, keeping the ball for virtually the entire period and building up a two-goal lead.
It took just four minutes for the Saints' first goal to come. Sunderland failed to clear after a long spell of pressure, eventually allowing Morgan Schneiderlin to nod down to Jay Rodriguez 25 yards from goal. The former Burnley man took two perfect touches and then sent an equally perfect finish fizzing past Vito Mannone and into the far corner.
There were obviously more goals in the match. Luke Shaw had a cross deflected onto the post and behind by Adam Johnson, Rickie Lambert flashed a shot just wide after a neat interchange with Schneiderlin and Rodriguez failed to capitalise after a Wes Brown error led him going one-on-one with Mannone.
A defender succeeded where the forwards failed. Dejan Lovren worked himself some space on a corner, nipping ahead of Brown to flick Steven Davis' delivery into the bottom corner, scissor-volley style. A 2-0 lead, combined with what seemed like almost pathological competence from the Black Cats, meant that the game was almost certainly over.
And then, 80 seconds later, it wasn't. In what amounted to Sunderland's first serious attack of the game, Johnson swung in a cross from the right, Fabio Borini raced clear of a cloud of Southampton defenders, took the ball on his chest, twisted, and with the visitors almost begging for an offside call, guided the ball just past Artur Boruc.
At 2-1, Sunderland were still losing, but the goal was enough for them to remember that they were at least nominally a Premier League team and therefore should be capable of playing football on occasion. Southampton were still probably the better side, but the match had become properly competitive, a welcome change for the home faithful.
Despite the Black Cats finding new life, Mannone was by far the busier keeper, saving from Shaw, Rodriguez and Jose Fonte in quick succession. But Boruc still had a scare or two at 2-1, the most notable coming when Borini surged clear of the defence before tucking home only to realise mid-celebration that he had been (correctly) flagged offside.
Then came the equaliser. Johnson's presence on the right side had looked like Sunderland's biggest threat, and eventually his driving runs paid off. Isolated against Shaw, the winger shifted the ball onto his left foot and blasted past Boruc into the roof of the net, beating the goalkeeper at his near post.
Suddenly the hosts were rampant. Boruc did well to save from Craig Gardner and Steven Fletcher in quick succession as Sunderland threaten to utterly swamp the Saints back line. The game became more and more physical -- both Gaston Ramirez and Dejan Lovren left the field on stretchers -- and the seven minutes of injury time looked like it might just have been enough for the hosts to grab an incredible win.
But Marcos Alonso's late header was claimed by a labouring Boruc, and time ran out on an astonishing match.
Goals: Borini 32', Johnson 72'.
Southampton starting lineup (4-3-3): Artur Boruc; Luke Shaw, Jose Fonte, Dejan Lovren (Maya Yoshida 88'), Calum Chambers; Morgan Schneiderlin, Jack Cork, Steven Davis; Jay Rodriguez, Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana (Gaston Ramirez 74' (James Ward-Prowse 87')).
Goals: Rodriguez 4', Lovren 31'.