Paolo Di Canio believes Sunderland are one win away from securing Premier League survival and has dubbed Sunday's home game with Southampton "our Champions League final".
Sunderland's manager saw his side recover from going a goal down to Stoke City and having Craig Gardner sent off for a foul on Charlie Adam to force a draw courtesy of a splendid second-half display capped by John O'Shea's equaliser.
"Southampton is absolutely, absolutely, a big game," said Di Canio, whose side have 38 points, three more than Wigan who have a game in hand and are at home to Swansea on Tuesday night. "It's our Champions League final, it's crucial for our destiny. It's hard to say, and it depends on what happens with Wigan tomorrow, but I think that, if we win against Southampton, with our goal difference, we should be OK."
He certainly does not want to go into Sunderland's final game of the season at Tottenham requiring a victory. "There's pressure yes," said Martin O'Neill's successor, "but this is a massive point. I'm very happy. We showed amazing second-half concentration. Our shape was fantastic. There was only one team in the second half, in my opinion. It wasn't easy, Stoke have giant players, a real physical presence and we must be a masochist team.
"Now, with two games left, we have to be careful, we can't afford any more mistakes like Craig's or Stéphane's [Sessègnon, who was sent off against Aston Villa last week]. Craig was very down and said sorry but it was a mistake, it can happen."
Di Canio's half-time team talk clearly proved inspirational. "I saw many faces very down," he said. "But I told them we could stay in the game and create chances. I told them to keep a 4-4-1 shape and it was a fantastic effort. I'm very pleased." He will not be watching the Wigan v Swansea game: "No I want to relax."
The draw leaves Stoke on 41 points and still not quite mathematically safe. Not that Tony Pulis, their manager, seemed overly concerned. "We're not mathematically safe but we're very pleased we've got to 41 points," he said. "This is a surreal season. I've never known it this tight."
Speculation is swirling that Pulis could leave Stoke this summer but, asked if he would be back on Wearside next season, he merely replied: "I hope so, the north-east clubs are wonderful. The crowd here made it very difficult for us. And you've got to give Sunderland enormous credit. We started well but they took the game by the scruff of the neck, they had a right go and their support was tremendous."