Prior to this game Aston Villa were accused of riding their luck.
Martin O’Neill suggested his team would soon be victims of poor refereeing and Ashley Young was described as irreplaceable.
However, the Premier League’s fourth placed team are still waiting for their good fortune to expire and for match officials to treat them unfairly and will now discover just how dispensable their star winger is.
For, in securing an incredible sequence of 10 top flight games without defeat, below-par Villa benefited from a slice of fortune and a couple of controversial calls from referee Mike Dean against Sunderland.
The fifth successive away win that keeps Villa firmly in the Champions League places came at a price, however, with priceless playmaker Young’s senseless sending off midway through the second-half.
With O’Neill’s top four hopefuls adding the absence of inspirational captain Martin Laursen to the long-term loss of target-man John Carew, they could have done without Young’s unnecessary three-match ban.
Although, if the claret and blues continue to enjoy the same run of fortune on the field, then it will take more than missing the Premier League’s triple player-of-the-month award winner to knock them out of their stride.
Villa did not have it all their own way on Saturday, however, and critics who accuse Villa of merely fluking their way into the league’s elite are wrong and should take a look at how their rivals fared at the weekend.
Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal all had to rely on late goals to see off opponents in Bolton Wanderers, Stoke City and Hull City, which top flight superpowers should supposedly roll over without breaking sweat.
Villa, similarly, laboured in beating struggling Sunderland and, it is true, the occasions when O’Neill’s stubborn side have been at their breathtaking best this season can be tallied on the fingers of one hand.
However, by luck or design, Villa have stumbled upon the kind of winning formula that the top teams perfected years ago, namely the art of gaining victories, or at least avoiding defeat, even on off days.
Which goes some way to explaining how they came back from a goal down in the blink of an eye to completely alter the course of a game Sunderland were dominating and, many would argue, deserved to win.
When Danny Collins put the Black Cats in front on 11 minutes after escaping the attentions of Carlos Cuellar to powerfully head in a free-kick, Ricky Sbragia’s team fully deserved their early lead.
But for a smart save by Brad Friedel to thwart Dean Whitehead at the near post after Djibril Cisse’s pass took Nigel Reo-Coker out of the game, Villa could have faced a mountain to climb.
Kenwyne Jones, reportedly a target of O’Neill, who is anxious to boost his attacking options with the date of Carew’s intended return from injury still no clearer, also threatened on occasions.
The Trinidad and Tobago striker, having been fouled by Curtis Davies for the free-kick which led to the goal, then drew two routine saves from Friedel either side of the break after dazzling footwork.
It took Villa until the hour mark to register their first effort on target, although for the travelling claret and blue army it was worth waiting for, as it was James Milner’s controversial equaliser.
Ashley Young was the creator, bursting on to a long ball out of defence to outstrip Nyron Nosworthy and aim an inviting ball across the goalmouth.
Milner appeared to have been tripped by Pascal Chimbonda and it was the momentum of that tangle which forced him to fall onto the ball and divert it over the line.
Sunderland were adamant that the former Newcastle winger handled the ball and Milner later pointed out that it was an accidental combination of head and hand.
If Young was the architect of the equaliser, then it looked like he would be the architect of Villa’s downfall when he was correctly shown a red card on 72 minutes.
There was no need to even tackle Whitehead deep into Sunderland territory and there was certainly no need for a dangerous two-footed lunge.
Rather than buckle, however, Villa, who got lucky when Cisse headed straight at Friedel, somehow conjured up a contentious late winner 10 minutes from time.
Again they profited from a borderline decision when Gabriel Agbonlahor chased another long ball, only to be halted by a high foot from Paul McShane near the 18-yard line.
The referee was convinced that the offence occurred inside the area, although replays are inconclusive.