An entertaining encounter saw Sunderland come back from two goals down against an impressive Southampton
And that's it! A fantastic game ends level. Southampton were the better team, but Sunderland dug in impressively, and the point they salvaged may stand them in good stead later on this season. They remain in the relegation zone, though. Saints stay in ninth, will wonder how they passed up a chance to take all three points and leapfrog into eighth, and will be worried about the health of Ramirez and Lovren, who were felled by unfortunate challenges towards the end. What a game, though. Marvellous entertainment. Enjoy the rest of your Saturday, and may your god go with you.
90 min +7: ... Ki is found in space on the right-hand corner of the box, but pauses as he shapes to shoot, and his effort is blocked.
90 min +6: Schneiderlin dithers in the centre circle and allows Gardner to bustle off with the ball. He lifts a pass down the inside left for Fletcher, who wins a corner off Fonte. From which ...
90 min +5: And now it's Southampton doing all the pressing. This game really has ebbed and flowed, although Saints will wonder how they're not winning it, given the overall balance of play. Still, Sunderland never accepted their fate, and have come back brilliantly. A winner, anyone?
90 min +3: Davis slips a clever ball down the middle and is very close to releasing Rodriguez, but Mannone is quickly off his line to intercept and smother. Sunderland's keeper has been very impressive indeed today.
90 min +2: Sunderland are doing all the pressing. Borini is seeing a lot of the ball, as busy a player as there is on the park at the moment.
90 min: Play having restarted, Ward-Prowse is bundled over by Alonso down the right. The free kick is easily dealt with by Sunderland. There will be seven added minutes tacked onto the end of this game, no great surprise after those stoppages for Ramirez and Lovren.
89 min: Poor old Lovren is being wheeled down the tunnel, the Sunderland support applauding him warmly. He doesn't look in a great way, still toking on the pipe. Ramirez was taken straight down the tunnel.
87 min: These are sad scenes for Southampton, with Ramirez going off on a stretcher, Ward-Prowse replacing him. Meanwhile Lovren is also getting loaded onto a stretcher, and he's lugging on an oxygen pipe. Yoshida comes on for him. What a dismal affair. What a costly few seconds for the Saints.
84 min: Ramirez zips in from the right and is this close to breaking free into the area. But he's upended on the edge of the box by Brown, who clatters him from behind, landing on his ankle. Not deliberate, but very clumsy. The referee doesn't even give a foul. Ramirez looks in real trouble here, his head in his hands. Sunderland flood upfield, to no effect, though Lovren goes down too, having tried to get the ball off Fletcher and hurt himself in the process.
82 min: Johnson sashays in from the right and whips a low shot towards the bottom left. Boruc is behind it and gathers with safe hands.
81 min: Borini floats a ball into the box from the left for Fletcher, who foolishly is caught offside, half asleep as Saints push out. Sunderland fancy this, and so do the crowd, who sense this could be one of the great turnarounds.
79 min: Saints are still enjoying the lion's share of the possession, but they're under a bit more pressure than they were earlier, Sunderland snapping at their heels. A sense now that this could go either way. Which may not be saying much, until you remember how Sunderland looked in all sorts of trouble 20 minutes ago! "It seems that the 'real' Steve Davis couldn't be more different to the image projected during his snooker career," notes Simon McMahon. "Interesting indeed. Maybe Michael Owen is actually a world expert in avant-garde jazz."
76 min: How this game has changed! Fletcher attempts to sidefoot home at pace from the edge of the box, looking for the bottom right. Boruc parries round the post. From the resulting corner, the ball's half cleared, but Bardsley cuts in from the right to shoot low from distance. The ball breaks through a crowded box to Fletcher, near the right-hand post. Fletcher should score, but falling backwards he sees his shot hit the trouser arrangement of Boruc, who has spread himself very bravely at the striker's feet. If Southampton lose this game, they'll need to take a long look at themselves.
74 min: Changes in the wake of that equaliser. Sunderland replace Altidore with Fletcher, while for Saints, Lallana makes way for Ramirez.
Johnson is in form all right! Ki takes the ball with him at pace down the left, eating up the yards, then sliding a pass into the centre for Gardner. On the edge of the D, he shuttles the ball on to Johnson, who is in acres down the right. Johnson takes a touch and hammers a shot towards the top corner. Boruc gets a hand on it, but can only help it into the net. A minor goalkeeping error, maybe, but that was hit with such venom that it would have been a hell of a parry had he kept it out. Sunderland are level! How?
69 min: Ki sprays a delightful crossfield pass towards Johnson on the right wing. The in-form winger cuts inside and makes for the area, but his shakes and shimmies don't fool Fonte, who stands firm in his way. Sunderland are at least nudging their way back into this game a little.
67 min: Saints are a clever, clever side. Again they do what they did when Borini actually did score in the first half, passing it around the middle of the park to frustrate Sunderland and their supporters, and take any heat out of the game.
64 min: Sunderland have a goal disallowed! Gardner flicks a ball down the middle of the park, releasing Borini. The striker takes a touch towards the box, and confidently slips a low shot into the bottom right! He wheels off in celebration, doing that knife-in-mouth thing which may or may not be a nod to Steve Davis's aforementioned musical career, but the assistant ref puts a stop to his gallop. He's flagged for offside, and indeed was ahead of the last man when he received the pass. But that was close. Sunderland will take succour from that, if nothing else. They certainly don't deserve to be level on the balance of play, but if they can raise their game, and Saints get nervous ...
62 min: A double change for Sunderland, who very much need it. Cattermole and Larsson are hooked, with Gardner and Colback coming on in their stead.
61 min: A third Saints goal is surely just a matter of time. Lambert is sent bowling down the right. He slips a ball into the box for Rodriguez, who gets ahead of Bardsley and sidefoots a strong, rising effort just past the right-hand post and into the side netting.
60 min: Shaw takes another dig from distance, cutting in from the left and sending a heatseeker towards the bottom right. Mannone fingertips round the post. The corner is cleared after a fashion by Sunderland, though Saints are soon coming back at the home side, Davis swinging a cross in from the right for Lambert, Mannone plucking the ball from the sky just in time.
58 min: Alonso brings down Lallana, who was twisting him this way and that down the right. The free kick's whipped into the area, and Fonte slaps a strong header towards the bottom right from 10 yards. Mannone, who is earning his money this afternoon, gathers well, again at the second attempt.
56 min: Rodriguez nutmegs Cattermole in the centre circle and sweeps upfield. He one-twos with Lambert down the inside right, then hammers a low shot towards the bottom-left corner from 20 yards. Mannone is behind it, gathering at the second attempt. But that was a gorgeous passing move from Saints, played at pace and with extreme prejudice. Having started the half well, Sunderland are suddenly hanging on a little bit here, with the home side dominating possession again.
54 min: Chambers, Shaw having showed him what full backs can achieve, makes off down the other wing and lashes a shot from distance straight at Mannone. That's a very decent effort. "If you tire of Michael Owen's prosaic analysis you can always try the snooker on the BBC," suggests Ben Bamford. "I just inadvertently switched channels in time to hear Steve Interesting Davis saying of one the players: 'If he really sinks his teeth into you he can put you to sleep.' If old Soporific Steve can conjure that one then surely Mundane Mike can up his visceral game too." I doubt Owen can draw on the hidden depths of Steve Davis, though. Here's the six-time snooker world champion talking 1970s progressive rock on The Quietus website, and starring in a video for psychedelic beat combo Knifeworld ...
51 min: A free kick to Sunderland in the middle of the Saints half, Cork having handled. The ball's threaded down the inside right for Borini, who nearly whips a shot into the bottom left, but the effort is inches wide. No matter, it'll be taken again for some reason only the referee is aware of. And it's wasted. But this is a lot better from the home side, who have also made a half-arsed penalty claim after a bouncing ball brushed Lovren on the shoulder. Nope!
49 min: Shaw cuts inside from the left and hits a rising shot which slips down Mannone's throat like an oyster.
48 min: Sunderland have started the second half in lively fashion, Altidore, Larsson and Borini causing enough bother to win a couple of corners. The first, down the right, comes to naught. The second, on the left, ends up at Johnson's feet on the opposite wing. He floats a cross towards Borini, but the striker's offside, and Boruc is out quickly to claim anyway.
And we're off again! Saints get the ball rolling again. Davis tries to score from 30 yards, and gets within 30 yards of the goal.
Half-time advertisement: Celebrity Sunderland fan Jonathan Wilson has a new book out. Here it is! Admittedly it's about Liverpool, but there's quite a lot about former Sunderland manager Tom Watson in the first chapter, and in any case, you can't desert him now, Sunderland supporters, not after all he's done for you.
A free kick by Lambert, 25 yards out, just to the right. It's bending in, and Mannone takes no chances, punching out for a corner. The set piece is cleared, and that's that for a half that's flown by. How is there only one goal in this? Saints will be very happy with their performance - they have been not far short of brilliant at times - but Sunderland have been, for the most part, worse than hopeless. Fabio Borini has thrown them a lifeline, though. Should be an intriguing second half. Don't go flipping!
44 min: Altidore, out near the left, takes a long ball down, to ironic cheers. The crowd aren't impressed with his display so far. The ball is sent out to Alonso, who crosses for Larsson, but the midfielder can't knock down into Altidore's path. There's frustration boiling up in the stands again.
42 min: Lovren sets Saints on the move upfield with a Beckenbaueresque bustle down the middle, then a Moore-like rake out to the right wing. The ball's whipped into the middle for Rodriguez, on the edge of the box; he drags a lame shot wide left. But Saints are playing some very attractive football here.
40 min: It's all Saints again. Sunderland can't get a touch. Davis finds himself in acres down the right, and finds Lallana with a low cross whipped to the near post, but Cattermole is in attendance to put the Southampton midfielder off before he can get a shot away.
38 min: Ki comes straight through the back of Cork, and is booked for his trouble. Saints had been pinging it around down the right, and won themselves a corner, but Borini, currently on a one-man recovery mission, blooters the set piece clear.
36 min: Southampton wisely extract some of the heat from this game by stroking it around the middle for a while, Lambert and Rodriguez pushing forward, then shuttling the ball back to Davis and Cork in the middle. That's quietened the fans a little, who had finally found their voice after Borini's strike.
34 min: Sunderland have their tails up now! Altidore bustles down the left to win a corner. Nothing comes from the set piece, but Southampton's passes are, all of a sudden, not sticking any more, while the home side have visibly stepped up the pace. A minute's a long time in football, isn't it?
Sunderland fans were flooding out of the stadium, but hopefully the silly buggers have turned round and returned to their seats! Straight from the restart, Johnson loops a ball into the Saints box from the right. Borini, on the penalty spot, takes a touch and, with his back to goal, turns and guides a bobbler into the bottom left! What a response by Sunderland, who have been worse than useless up to now. That, needless to say, is much better!
They're two up now! A corner down the right. It's whipped towards the penalty spot, where Lovren, who scored the winner at Anfield in September, whips a shot into the bottom left. That's an adroit flick, with his back to goal, though Brown's marking left a lot to be desired.
29 min: Southampton Should Be Two Goals Up pt II. Brown attempts a juggling act while chasing a long Saints ball down the middle, facing his own goal. Fannying around in the hapless style, he turns and allows himself to be closed down, then robbed, by Lambert. Rodriguez is alone to Lambert's left, on the edge of the area. He receives a perfect pass, but attempts to sidefoot into the right-hand corner, and Mannone snaffles.
28 min: The Stadium of Light is incredibly quiet right now. Southampton are as comfortable as it's possible to be away from home in the Premier League.
26 min: And a pretty good capsule review of the action so far, too, now I come to think about it. Certainly better than anything Michael Owen's managed.
23 min: A lovely intermission in BT Sport's coverage. The camera cuts to a bald gentleman in the stand, the veins in his head bulging like corn rows. "Yer shit!" he screams at Sunderland in impotent anger, a perfect study of frustration and despair. BT Sport apologise for the trenchant language, but there's really no need, that was marvellous entertainment, and worth the subscription costs on its own.
21 min: Southampton are this close to going two up. Lambert, dummying a pass coming in from the right wing, spins his marker on the right-hand edge of the Sunderland D, and nips into the box down the channel. Lallana chips a first-time ball through to the striker, who lashes a low shot across Mannone and just wide of the left-hand post. That was a delightful move, with Sunderland torn apart.
20 min: Gus Poyet is on the touchline, shouting. A lot. He's not in a good place right now.
17 min: ... Fonte is lightly manhandled by a clumsy, flapping O'Shea. No penalty, and it would have been harsh, though you've seen them given. Another corner, though, from which Shaw picks up possession on the left, then sees his low cross-cum-shot deflected onto the base of the left-hand post by the outstretched, desperate leg of Johnson. Another corner, which is finally cleared, but only just. Southampton are very impressive, pressing hard and passing with confidence, but Sunderland are woeful and all over the shop.
16 min: Sunderland can't go on like this. Schneiderlin makes good down the right and whips a ball into the box; the lively Rodriguez finds his shot blocked. Then Cork swings a ball into the area from the left; Brown is forced to eyebrow the cross out on the right for a corner. From which ...
15 min: Shaw and Rodriguez are causing Sunderland all sorts of bother down the Saints left. First the young left back swings a ball into the area which Sunderland make a nine-course tasting menu of clearing. Then Shaw combines with Rodriguez and nearly races clear into the area, only to be denied by staunch work from Johnson.
13 min: Cork betrays Southampton's collective confidence by attempting to lob Mannone from the edge of the centre circle. He wasn't too far off, either, the ball floating just over the bar, though the backtracking keeper would have had it covered were it on target. The home crowd aren't in revolt yet, but already there are a few groans at every Sunderland touch. The home team can't string two passes together at the moment.
10 min: Lee Cattermole can be a hot-headed clown sometimes, like that's news. He's the first name in the book for a completely pointless hack at Rodriguez's ankles in the middle of the park. There was no danger there whatsoever, or certainly no need to panic in that area of the field. Anyway, that's Sunderland's enforcer on tenterhooks for 80 minutes of the match. I wonder how this will pan out.
9 min: The Saints midfield are all over this game. Cork and Davis are dictating things, the latter nearly finding Rodriguez on the edge of the Sunderland area, to the left of the D. Just too much on the pass. The anxiety among the home support is palpable, and no wonder, Sunderland have been a shower so far.
7 min: Southampton have enjoyed 81 percent of possession so far. Sunderland need to get their gamefaces on and quick.
6 min: Sunderland haven't responded at all. They've yet to start playing. Southampton have silenced the Stadium of Light. The home side are in shock.
This has been coming, if such a thing can be said at such an early stage. Sunderland faff around on the edge of their own box, Alonso shanking a useless clearance barely five yards upfield. The ball deflects to Rodriguez, on the edge of the D. He takes a touch to flick up, Le Tissier style, and then threads a confident finish into the bottom left! That's a fine strike, Mannone with no chance. What a week Saints have suffered, and what a response this is!
3 min: "There's only one Pochettino," bellow the Southampton faithful. A message there to the owner and new chair Katharina Liebherr.
2 min: Saints stroke it around the middle of the park awhile. They don't really go anywhere, though Cork briefly threatens to break down the inside right. It's a confident start by the visitors, though.
A few seconds have elapsed ... and Mannone has been put under severe pressure by Rodriguez and Lambert, charging like billy-o, while up the other end, Larsson isn't far from releasing Altidore down the inside left. That's all with less than 15 seconds on the clock. More of this and we won't go far wrong.
And we're off! The Stadium of Light isn't anywhere near full, but it's full enough to create a cooking atmosphere. Coins are tossed, hands are shaken, huddles are formed, and then Sunderland kick off. This promises to be a good game. Classic, please!
The teams are out!
Sunderland are in their famous red-and-white stripes ...
... while Southampton, currently going through a predominantly red 1980s throwback phase ...
... have to make do with their black away kit with ostentatious 1950s-style v-neck.
Sunderland: Mannone, Bardsley, O'Shea, Brown, Alonso, Larsson, Cattermole, Ki, Johnson, Altidore, Borini.
Subs: Gardner, Fletcher, Celustka, Pickford, Colback, Giaccherini, Roberge.
Southampton: Boruc, Chambers, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw, Schneiderlin, Cork, Rodriguez, Steven Davis, Lallana, Lambert.
Subs: Kelvin Davis, Clyne, Yoshida, Ramirez, Ward-Prowse, Do Prado, Hooiveld.
Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)
Back in August, when these teams met on the second Saturday of the season, Southampton needed a late, late Jose Fonte goal to salvage a point at St Mary's against Paolo di Canio's Sunderland. There'd have been little point predicting how the season would pan out for both clubs after that. Within the month, di Canio was sent skittering down Keir Hardie Way - oh the delicious irony - on the bones of his tediously right-wing arse. Sunderland barely put a foot right until the middle of December, but since then, under new boss Gus Poyet, they appear to have turned the corner: only one loss in their last nine league and cup matches, including wins over Champions League chasing Everton and reigning champions Manchester United. They won their last game 4-1 at Fulham, and are off the foot of the table and rising. Haway the lads.
Saints meanwhile have been on a similarly unpredictable journey. It wasn't long before they were bothering the Champions League places, and so far this season they've won at Anfield, severely irritated Manchester United at Old Trafford, and pierced a defence organised by Jose Mourinho within 13 seconds. Then, having threatened to disrupt the big-club hegemony, the wheels of the bandwagon have started to rattle disconcertingly, if not quite fall off completely. Mauricio Pochettino's team have only won two of their last 11 league matches, the chairman's buggered off, and the vultures are hovering over a talented squad. Having said all that, mid-table safety at the very worst is a shoo-in, and the team have won their last two, 4-3 in the cup against Burnley, and 1-0 at home versus West Brom. The Saints keep marching.
So, predictions for today, then: No thanks! No thanks!
Kick off: 12.45pm.