David Moyes joined the company of Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsène Wenger and Harry Redknapp by passing the milestone of 500 Premier League points won, but with every season you wonder how much longer he can content himself merely to be mentioned in the same breath as those heavyweights of his profession.
His record at Everton is one of which he can rightly be proud, given their financial disadvantages, but while he is still, at 47, relatively young there must surely come a time when a good reputation and three manager of the year awards is not enough. Given that Everton were three points above the relegation places at three o'clock yesterday, should he achieve the ambition he regards as still possible this season – that of qualifying for Europe for the fifth time – he might win another.
This at least was a step in the right direction. Everton have tended to follow good performances with bad ones in a frustrating season but this time they built on the unexpected FA Cup victory over Chelsea with a solidly routine victory, capped by two Jermaine Beckford goals.
They meet Reading in the Cup on Tuesday evening, face Newcastle in the League next Saturday, then have three home matches in a row, all winnable. Their movement up the table could be rapid. "We have not had too many back-to-back wins this season but today was a good start and we have a chance on Tuesday to keep it going," Moyes said.
Only a month ago Sunderland looked much more likely contenders for a Europa League place, revealing the potential that must have helped win Steve Bruce the long-term contract extension he signed this week. Yet since the beginning of February that assessment has had to be revised on account of the revelation of defensive vulnerability, which took Bruce by surprise when his side shipped four goals at home to Chelsea but has persisted in a run of four straight defeats.
Bruce had questions to ask over both yesterday's goals after Everton effectively wrapped up the points in the first 39 minutes. The first came after only eight, when Leon Osman was allowed all too easily to thread a pass through that presented Beckford, in the inside left channel, with a clear sight of Simon Mignolet's goal. His finish was not exactly clinical and needed the foot of defender Titus Bramble to find its intended target but, needing one to reach 100 career League goals, the former Leeds striker celebrated anyway.
Beckford could claim the second with no argument. This time there was individual rather than collective responsibility after right-back Anton Ferdinand allowed himself to be outwitted, even out-muscled by Mikel Arteta along the Everton left. The Spaniard then showed John Mensah a clean pair of heels before crossing from the byline. Beckford was ready to receive the pass and while his touch again left something to be desired it was strong enough to send the ball wide of Mignolet and leave Sunderland with a steeply uphill task.
Until the second goal, Bruce's side had not looked too shabby, going forward at least. In the sixth minute, Kieran Richardson probably should have scored the game's first goal, but dragged his shot wide after Asamoah Gyan sent him clear on Sunderland's first meaningful attack. At 1-0, moreover, it took a brilliant save by Tim Howard, fingertipping Stéphane Sessègnon's powerful, rising drive on to his crossbar, to keep the scores level. But thereafter, Sunderland offered very little. "In the first half, we were as poor as we have been all season," Bruce said. "It's a good job I signed my contract yesterday!
"We made a fist of it in the second half but in truth we were second best. I believe we have not won here in 16 years and it never looked like that was going to change. They were poor goals to concede and if you defend like that in the Premier League you are going to get beat."
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Man of the match: Coleman
Match rating: 6/10