Arsenal were held to a draw by a resilient Sunderland, who moved out of the relegation zone above Norwich and local rivals Newcastle.
Patrick Van Aanholt saw his free kick come agonisingly close, hitting the outside of the right post.
Alexis Sanchez bent his free kick towards goal but Vito Mannone saved excellently.
Lamine Kone came close with an overhead kick which went just wide of the left post.
Both sides had penalty appeals for handball but referee Mike Dean refused to blow his whistle.
Sam Allardyce named the same side which saw his team beat Norwich away last weekend. Arsenal had Jack Wilshere on the bench after a lengthy spell on the sidelines due to another injury.
Sunderland showed the same spirit they tend to show year in year out and defended brilliantly throughout the full 90 minutes. The draw saw the Black Cats move above Norwich and out of the relegation zone on goal difference.
Allardyce’s side have now lost just one game in their last seven. The pairing of Youness Kaboul and Lamine Kone in the heart of Sunderland’s defence has been pivotal to their revival in recent games. Kaboul was brought in at the start of the season and was paired alongside John Oshea, but since the arrival of Kone in January the pair have been a revelation.
Kone himself got the man of the match award and deservedly so. Lee Cattermole and Jan Kirchoff were once again excellent in midfield. Yann M’vila struggled to do the basics as he has in recent weeks but may just be going through a bad spell in form.
Allardyce was a little frustrated in his post match press conference and claimed his side could have nicked the game 1-0. He also said: “We’ve got ourselves out of the bottom three now for the first time in many months and the challenge now for the lads is to stay out of it.”
Sunderland have four games remaining to secure survival, starting with Saturday’s trip to Stoke, followed by the visits of Chelsea and Everton and a journey to Watford on the final day. Arsenal can do Sunderland a favour by beating Norwich next Saturday.
Stoke (Away) – Win 3 points.
Chelsea (Home) – Draw 1 Point.
Everton (Home) – Win 3 Points.
Watford (Away) – Draw 1 Point.
It might be in hope but I really do think we will stay up from now. With Stoke away next weekend and them having nothing to play for, my gut instinct tells me we can go and pick up three points. The game against Chelsea at home will be a test, but the way we’ve been defending I see us getting a point against a team who again have nothing but pride to play for. The game against Everton at home I see as winnable with the way they have been playing lately, the scrutiny the manager is under and the amount of injuries they have. Then comes the last game of the season which every Sunderland fan dreads. We pray each year that the relegation battle won’t come down to the last day and I personally don’t believe it will. I do think that if it did we could pick up a point anyway.
The game this weekend against Stoke City I feel is going to be the turning point. We could go and win and put distance between us and our relegation rivals or we could go and lose and our hard work against Arsenal could be undone. For the neutral that is the beauty of this time of the season but for the fans of the three horses running in this race it is going to be unbareable.
We do what we always do and keep fighting until the end. Ha’way the lads!