Christmas came early for battling Bradley Lowery tonight, when Santa dropped in.
St Nick was out and about near Bradley’s home in Blackhall and took a few minutes out from his stint on the Puffing Billy fund-raising train to call in on the five-year-old.
Bradley has captured the hearts of the region with his battle against neuroblastoma and Jolene Brumby - whose dad Ian Morell built Puffing Billy - said the team had been inundated with suggestions that they pay him a visit.
"We ran a competition for people to have a chance to travel on the train and people were saying we should give it to Bradley,” said Jolene.
"But we couldn’t do that, it was not really sensible."
Instead the team decided to call in and surprise Bradley at home - and they contacted mum and dad Gemma and Carl to get the inside word on what he would like for Christmas.
"We knew he liked Sunderland but I think he was more surprised that we knew he liked Spider-Man," said Jolene.
"He kept saying 'How did you know that?' but it’s Santa’s job to know stuff.
"It was lovely."
Bradley had been over the moon to see Santa, said Gemma. The visit had been a complete surprise for him.
"It has been absolutely fantastic," she said.
"He loved it and he got some lovely presents.
"I didn’t tell him anything at all. With the situation we’re in the moment, we don’t know where we’re going to be or when, so I don’t tell him stuff until the very last minute."
Last week the family shared the devastating news that they and brother Kieran only have limited time left with Bradley after recent scans revealed his cancer was growing.
But now they have been given hope of a little extra time, after doctors decided to press ahead with radiotherapy: “They originally thought they would not be able to do it because of where it is but they have had a look at the scans and they are going to do it now,” said Gemmna.
"It is amazing news for us because every day is precious."