This was the movable object against the resistible force. With a crushing run of 15 straight defeats between them coming into this contest, there had to be some relief. At least they both couldn't lose. In the end Charlton rightly took the spoils, earning some respite with a first victory at The Valley since their opening home game in August.
Their greater ability, with shards of incisive play from Danny Murphy and Alexei Smertin, told against Sunderland, who rallied only when the game was lost and were undone by inept defending. They now stand 11 points behind the fourth- from-bottom team, Everton.
"I have to keep going," the Sunderland manager, Mick McCarthy, said. "But it's making it increasingly difficult, because stats and history tell you that." There was another to add to the collection: the goals let in here mean Sunderland have now conceded 6,000 in their League history. If they had always had a defensive pairing as creaky as Gary Breen and Steven Caldwell then Sunderland could probably have added another nought.
McCarthy talked about "individual mistakes" and "missed tackles, missed passes, missed opportunities". He did not need to name names, although Nyron Nosworthy was also noteworthy for his poor display.
After shipping 11 goals in their past three home games, Charlton have also been undone by similar errors. Their manager, Alan Curbishley, talked of the "humiliation" he has felt. "I'm devastated at what has happened to us over those matches," he said. "I could not see it coming." There was the bonus of a clean sheet yesterday but, Curbishley said, he couldn't give a hoot. "We just had to win," he added. "No matter how we did it."
They did it by reverting to the personnel who gave them such a flying start to the season. They almost had a flying start to this match, with Darren Bent wasteful after just 32 seconds. Murphy picked him out and the striker got his angles wrong. Breen cleared. Apart from a Chris Perry header and a dragged shot by Darren Ambrose, Charlton did not threaten again until half-time approached. Then Jerome Thomas won a tackle on halfway and the ball broke to Murphy, who alertly flicked it on to Bent. Neither Nosworthy nor Breen were quick enough to intercept and the striker lashed in his 11th goal of the season.
"I don't think the first half was going anywhere," McCarthy said. The interval came. "The last thing I said to them was, 'Don't do anything to lift them'," he added. Instead Caldwell provided a springboard by turning Luke Young's cross against his own post and then presenting the rebound to Ambrose. The winger stroked the ball home.
Charlton decided to pack up. Attacking players were withdrawn, defenders deployed. Curbishley made no apologies. McCarthy threw on Jon Stead. He made an immediate impact, twice teeing up the impressive Julio Arca. Dean Kiely brilliantly tipped over the first, a right-foot drive, and then got down to divert the second, a left-foot volley. Stead also crossed for Justin Hoyte but, again, Kiely blocked.
Charlton, whose players had a clear-the-air meeting this week, had their win. "I'm quite pleased it was not in a pub," said Curbishley of the get-together. Maybe now they can raise a glass in celebration. It is Sunderland, with a 10th consecutive defeat, who are drowning their sorrows.Reuse content