SHOULD Chelsea manage to traverse the trials and tribulations of this season without a defeat to their name, then a stalemate at the Stadium of Light will be one they look back on with a splash of relief.
Sunderland would have snatched a point against the Premier League leaders if it was offered to them pre-match, albeit it extended their tally of draws this season to eight.
But as a second stalemate in a row for the Black Cats entered the final 20 minutes, Gus Poyet’s side became the closest opponents this season to take Chelsea’s scalp.
If any side looked like snatching maximum points, it was Sunderland.
That was testament to arguably Sunderland’s best performance of the campaign.
While it wasn’t an actual victory, it was certainly a moral one.
It had nothing to do with superstition either, despite Sunderland continuing to be Chelsea’s bogey side.
This was down to good old-fashioned graft.
Defensively, Sunderland were impeccable; their shape at the back immaculate and their organisation causing Chelsea to ultimately run out of ideas and resort to hitting long-range pot-shots.
It was a telling statistic that Sunderland became the first side since the penultimate game of last season to prevent Chelsea scoring. They made Mourinho’s men look ordinary.
Other than Branislav Ivanovic’s first half effort which was well-saved by Costel Pantilimon, Chelsea failed to create a clear-cut opportunity.
All of the back four shone.
John O’Shea produced a stunning last-gasp challenge on Diego Costa, Wes Brown grew as the game wore on.
Given the murderous display produced by Eden Hazard in last season’s corresponding fixture, Santiago Vergini subdued the Belgian and it didn’t go unnoticed by the crowd.
Anthony Reveillere was similarly impressive on the other flank.
In front of them Lee Cattermole and Seb Larsson were tireless; constantly hunting down the blue shirts and snubbing out any pockets of space on the edge of the area.
And Connor Wickham was a powerhouse, offering Sunderland an outlet on the left and going toe-to-toe with Ivanovic. That’s no mean feat.
The heartening aspect though was that this was not simply a backs-to-the-wall job.
Sunderland showed plenty of ambition, hit the woodwork in the first half and had the best of the half-chances after the break.
Had Wickham, Jozy Altidore or Adam Johnson boasted a splash of fortune in those dying stages, Sunderland could easily have emerged victorious.
No-one should begrudge Sunderland registering a point though.
Prior to these three games against Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool, a three-point total haul would have been welcomed by most fans.
Although there will inevitably be tired legs for Wednesday’s visit of City, Sunderland haven’t got off to a bad start.