FOR the second season running, the result of this modern-day tale of two cities was Taylor-made.
Last August it was Ryan’s swirling free-kick which re-asserted Newcastle’s dominance of this historic fixture.
This time it was Steven’s controversial pre-match claim no Sunderland player would be able to get into Newcastle’s team.
In the event, the Newcastle defender did not make it into the United starting XI, but his outspoken interview loomed large over a day which lent some credence to a controversial theory.
Martin O’Neill denied afterwards Taylor’s tongue-in-cheek claims had figured in his pre-match motivational talk but admitted the banner headlines in Saturday morning’s ‘apers had stiffened resolve among a few Sunderland players to prove him wrong.
Despite a late leveller which prompted waves of relief around the Stadium of Light, they could hardly claim to have issued a robust rebuttal after a curiously under-par showing.
For while Demba Ba’s inadvertent own goal ensured there would be no knock-out blow in a frenetic 146th Wear-Tyne tussle, Newcastle’s superiority – even with ten men – was difficult to deny.
Forced to re-deploy their danger-men by the justified 25th-minute sending off of Cheick Tiote, the visitors illustrated a measure of control and menace which eluded subdued Sunderland.
Marshalled by their outstanding skipper Fabricio Coloccini, they kept the Black Cats at arm’s length until the 86th-minute goal which lifted the roof off the Stadium of Light.
Derby defeat tends to shine a light on other frailties and with a team in transition the Black Cats boss will be thankful for a precious point.
To lose bragging rights is one thing, but to do it when confronted with the challenge of ten men for over an hour is another thing entirely.
It would also have deepened the concern about the direction the Black Cats are going in this season.
ecause, for all the hope generated by the signings of Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson back in August, Sunderland are yet to illustrate they are capable of making a leap forward.
The anonymity of Johnson on the right wing was cause for anxiety, just as the marginal impact of Stephane Sessegnon and James McClean on a well-drilled Newcastle was.
Prolific Fletcher was quiet but that fact can be mitigated by Coloccini’s towering performance – which an excited Alan Pardew likened to a vintage Bobby Moore display.
O’Neill is still searching for a formula which makes the most of the attacking tools at his disposal and his post-match briefing – at which he admitted “relief” was his overriding emotion at full-time – was dominated by questions about the lack of impact of McClean, Sessegnon and Johnson.
Sunderland’s lack of creativity was in stark contrast to the spark exhibited by the visitors from the first minute, in which they forced a corner which set the tone for a 25-minute spell that was all Newcastle.
They were ahead within three minutes when Hatem Ben Arfa swept down the right flank before teeing up Demba Ba for a shot Simon Mignolet blocked.
However, as the ball broke loose into space the penalty area, Yohan Cabaye was on hand to ram it past a sea of red and white shirts into the bottom corner of the goal.
From that moment, Sunderland were plonked on to the back foot.
Their support had been loud and lusty in the minutes before kick-off but Cabaye’s goal sucked the energy and optimism out of the red and white hordes.
Demba Ba was inspired, bullying Carlos Cuellar and spearheading a team effort which ensured Sunderland forward raids to the bare minimum.
Cabaye, by contrast, looked on song and prompted emergency action from Mignolet with a long-range free-kick.
It required the intervention of Martin Atkinson to change the game.
He showed little hesitation in brandishing a red card for Tiote’s challenge on Fletcher and a second viewing confirmed that, with studs up high, the Ivorian had a case to answer.
It was the first Newcastle sending-off in the competitive history of this fixture – but there was no swing in momentum.
Instead, Newcastle, buoyed by Coloccini’s brilliance, moved to containment mode.
Craig Gardner took two long-range pot shots and Johnson curled an effort wide of the frame of the goal, but it was Newcastle who nearly scored when Ba’s acrobatic volley flashed just wide.
Even in the second half, it was half-chances for the home side.
Louis Saha, on as sub, brushed the side netting but there was no way through – until Coloccini departed with cramp.
That allowed the uncertainty which ushered in Seb Larsson’s free-kick and an own goal which owed much to John O’Shea’s persistence. This game seldom fails to entertain and intrigue and again, we were not disappointed by a high-octane clash drenched with intensity and adrenaline.
Nevertheless, questions were rightly raised about the tone of some of the chanting. Taylor might not have been discreet with his words before the game but is it right to wish death on a fellow human being?
Similarly, Newcastle supporters might say they were being humorous in singing about Lee Cattermole but their ditty - which included a reference to shamed Jimmy Savile – lacked decency.
It is a shame those things were even on the agenda because this was a good game which showcased so much of what is right with North East football.
There were goals, incident and genuine class – but it says it all most of those occasions came from visiting players.