LONDON // Sunderland may stand seven points clear of Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League table but judging by the mood yesterday their position could have been reversed and the gap between them trebled.
Sunderland have taken just two points from their last six games and have begun an all-too familiar slide towards the drop zone, while QPR, seemingly dead and buried just over a week ago, find themselves just four points from salvation.
Before last week's win over Southampton, QPR were six points adrift. Now they have caught Reading and remain bottom only on goals scored.
There is belief in West London, with several players acquired in January doing the job they were brought in to do.
Andros Tonwsend had never previously scored a Premier League goal, but when Steven Fletcher's headed clearance dropped invitingly for him with 20 minutes remaining, he hit a brilliant dipping volley that flashed past Simon Mignolet.
Then, in the final minute, a similar clearance fell to Jermaine Jenas in a similar position. He had not scored a Premier League goal since September 2009, but the ball rasped off his foot into the bottom corner.
In that sense they were freakish strikes, but as Martin O'Neill, the Sunderland manager acknowledged, his defenders contributed to their own downfall.
"I thought when we've headed it clear, the nearest man should try to close it down," he said, although he said he would need to see the goals again before apportioning blame.
Stephane Sessegnon was the closest player for Townsend's strike, but having been the only glimmer of creative flair in an otherwise drab Sunderland performance, he perhaps has a measure of an excuse.
It had been Sessegnon's trickery that led to Sunderland's opener, creating space for a cross as Sunderland broke on the right and picking out Adam Johnson, who drove the ball back across goal for Fletcher to turn in.
That goal came out of nothing in a scrappy first half and so did QPR's equaliser 10 minutes later, Townsend's shot striking John O'Shea and ricocheting into the path of Loic Remy, who finished neatly, his third goal since arriving from Marseille in January.
Townsend and Jenas were also Redknapp signings - brought in on loan and a free transfer respectively - from his former club Tottenham Hotspur. "It doesn't make a difference to me who scores," Redknapp said. "I'm pleased Loic's scoring goals - he's a finisher. I felt it was a good all-round performance. It's the best I've seen us going forward since I got here."
The performance of Bobby Zamora was another "miracle", as Redknapp described it, as he battled on with an ankle injury, causing Titus Bramble persistent problems.
"There's players who didn't play today with injuries not as bad as Bobby's. He played 60 per cent fit. The physio a week ago said he'd be out for six weeks."
His partnership with Remy could prove key as QPR seek the 37 points Redknapp has set as the target for avoiding the drop.
As he noted, "even the teams sitting on 30 points are not safe" and that means Sunderland. After playing Norwich City at home next Sunday, they face Manchester United, Chelsea, Newcastle United and Everton.
"We've difficult fixtures coming up - it's been tough going throughout the season and we have to really fight through these last nine games," said O'Neill.
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE