The way Peter Grant was effusing about his centre-half after this fortuitous victory, you would have thought he had just seen Fabio Cannavaro himself repel Sunderland throughout the second half.
Well, it was not the great Italian central defender and World Cup winner but Dion Dublin instead who was there with the headers and the blocks when Norwich City needed them most. And when they needed the luck, they got that too. Dublin tackled Daryl Murphy from behind, 17 minutes from time, and the Sunderland player went to ground but no penalty was awarded.
"Without Dion we would have lost today," said Grant and, added to that lucky break late on, he was probably spot on. However, even Cannavaro has had to rely on the occasional slice of good fortune. "Outstanding," and "colossal" were two other adjectives Grant applied to his player.
This was the third match the versatile Dublin, who numbers Manchester United and Aston Villa among his many former clubs, had started since signing in late September as a free agent. It was also the first where Norwich did not end up being humiliated. His previous two starts, in attack, led to a 4-1 defeat against Burnley, which was Nigel Worthington's last game in charge as the Norfolk side's manager, and then a 5-0 drubbing against Stoke City. His presence here at the back for 90 minutes may have had something to do with the difference in results.
Not that Dublin, now 37, wants to stay in central defence. It is a role he has filled before, at Villa under David O'Leary, but he is keen to reassume a forward's position soon. That may prove difficult given Robert Earnshaw's form.
It was Paul McVeigh who supplied the pass to the Welshman, who took his lone chance with confidence from 20 yards and notched up his 10th goal of the season. With Darren Huckerby roving behind Earnshaw, the pair have pace to bother defences, something Dublin lost long ago.
However, Dublin has other attributes to lend a demoralised Norwich side slowly picking up under Grant's stewardship and he is being rested carefully between games. This was now their third win in six outings, one more victory than Sunderland's current run.
This was also the Wearsiders' second defeat of the week and Roy Keane was disgruntled at the lack of a penalty for Dublin's challenge and lack of at least a point after forcing three fine saves from Paul Gallacher and going close on two other occasions. The Sunderland manager just needs to find his own inspirational version of Dublin. He would not have to look far but unfortunately Keane, the player, has retired.
Goal: Earnshaw (51) 1-0.
Norwich City (3-5-1-1): Gallacher; Dublin, Drury, Shackell; McVeigh (Hughes, 74), Safri, Etuhu (Eagle, 84), Robinson, Colin; Huckerby; Earnshaw. Substitutes not used: Ashdown (gk), Thorne, Spillane.
Sunderland (4-5-1): Ward; Whitehad, Caldwell, Collins, Nyatanga; Lawrence, Brown, Kavanagh (Leadbitter, 73), Yorke, Hysen (Murphy, 68); Connolly (Elliott, 77) Substitutes not used: Alnwick (gk), Nosworthy.
Referee: M Riley (Yorkshire).
Booked: Norwich City Gallacher, Huckerby; Sunderland Caldwell, Kavanagh.
Man of the match: Dublin.
Attendance: 24,652.Reuse content