It was one of those matches which could not honestly be said to do much for the Premiership's case as the brightest and best league this side of Mars - it was never fluent enough for that - but it had its attractive moments. The ones that mattered came either side of half-time from Southampton, who scored twice in that short period: first through a spectacular drive from Jason Dodd and then through a Matthew Le Tissier penalty after a lone attack over 50 yards by one of the new signings, Egil Ostenstadt.
But anything the contest had to offer was overshadowed by the injury to the Sunderland goalkeeper, Tony Coton, before the scoring was opened. In advancing to meet a tantalising cross from Le Tissier in the 24th minute, he collided with the approaching Ostenstadt. Coton sustained fractures to both tibia and fibula in his right leg. Coton's team-mate Paul Stewart suggested later that he was the type of player who would bounce back, but at the age of 35 that might be doubtful.
Coton's departure brought on the Frenchman Lionel Perez for his first appearance. While he was to blame for none of the goals and produced one confident reflex save, the lack of Coton may have undermined his colleagues. The first goal arrived 13 minutes after Perez came on. Dodd's shot from 35 yards was classical and went in off the keeper's right-hand post. Until then the ball had been passed around proficiently if ineffectively in midfield, and it prompted Sunderland to inject more urgency into their forward movement.
But Southampton grouped well at the back, and when they caught the North- east side on the break without a defender in sight, persuading Gareth Hall to bring down Ostenstadt, there was no way back. The third goal arrived in the last minute when the substitute Neil Shipperley tapped in a Gordon Watson cross.
Southampton's new foreigners were splendid - if slightly unspeakable. Ostenstadt, the record pounds 1.3m signing Ulrich van Gobbel and, especially, the Israeli Eyal Berkovitch will contribute worthily to the cause of their team's continuation in the Premiership.