Miracles tend to be painfully elusive but Sunderland supporters now know they really can happen. Only three weeks ago Gus Poyet conceded that divine intervention seemed called for if his side were to be saved from relegation but a run of four successive wins has transformed the Wearside landscape, securing one of the greatest escapes in Premier League history.
With West Bromwich possessing a significantly superior goal difference to Norwich, the rubber-stamping of Sunderland's once apparently impossible survival means the team from Carrow Road are destined to join Fulham and Cardiff City in the Championship next season.
The goals were scored by the excellent Jack Colback and Fabio Borini but not for the first time Lee Cattermole held Poyet's side together and the enforcer departed to a standing ovation in the 87th minute.
Soon afterwards a crowd in excess of 45,000 unleashed a roar that must have been heard 12 miles up the road in Newcastle. An amalgam of thanks, joy and, above all, sheer relief, it sealed a triumph Poyet describes as "the biggest achievement of my life".
Smiling broadly, he said he was looking forward to enjoying a celebratory drink. "It's one of the happiest days of my life," he said. "I'm absolutely delighted, I'm proud and so pleased for the fans.
"It's been difficult, very difficult, but we've stayed up in a certain style, we're going to be remembered for this for a very long time. We've shown you can stay up despite being seven points adrift with a month left – but it'll be a miracle if something like this happens again … "
The Uruguayan, who has choreographed the collection of 13 points from the previous five games, sat nervously in his dugout at kick-off with a rug wrapped around his legs warding off the unseasonably icy rain. Within minutes this security blanket was discarded as Poyet rose to his feet and pumped thin air. Marcos Alonso overlapped from left-back and, having dodged Steven Reid, crossed in Colback's direction.
Colback, out of contract in the summer, may well be Newcastle-bound soon. No matter, he has remained one of Sunderland's most committed and influential players, thriving in a more attacking midfield role for Poyet. He arrived in the area just in time to expertly half-volley Alonso's cross beyond Ben Foster.
With Cattermole thriving in Poyet's beloved anchoring midfield role, Pepe Mel's side were up against it. Their task toughened once Sebastian Larsson, cleverly exploiting a chink of space, lifted a gloriously chipped pass into Borini's path and the Liverpool loanee responded by volleying past Foster.
It was an exquisitely crafted move and a superb finish that probably left Mel's players counting down the minutes until they could board the plane sitting on the tarmac at Newcastle airport waiting to fly them back to Birmingham. "I don't understand what happened in the first half," conceded West Bromwich's manager.
Despite odd flashes of skill from Saido Berahino and the Sunderland old boy Stéphane Sessègnon, his side failed to test Vito Mannone until the 43rd minute. As Mannone saved Berahino's curling shot fairly comfortably, it seemed a comeback would require the sort of outrageous twist more commonly found in Mel's acclaimed crime thrillers. With Sunderland subduing his midfield far too easily, the coach and part-time novelist strove to alter the agenda.
Most notably Youssouf Mulumbu replaced the immensely disappointing, embarrassingly ineffective, Claudio Yacob in central midfield. As Mulumbu began making a real difference, the game assumed a slightly different complexion, with Sunderland enduring an extended period without possession. Poyet emerged from the dugout and urged his players to get a grip.
Jozy Altidore could quickly have calmed the fans' nerves but instead the substitute somehow shot wide after connecting with Colback's highly inviting cross. Sunderland, though, had done enough. As scores of banners declared: "Miracles happen Gus."