Sunderland's last league win at Goodison Park came in 1996. It just so happened to be a relegation season.
History may still repeat itself given where the club remains, bottom of the Premier League, but at last they have hope.
It’s still grim, but yesterday provided a bit of much-needed relief.
Everton gave Sunderland a big helping hand, which was nice of them, but this was a performance and a result few saw coming.
Okay, so the Toffees gifted the goal, missed a load of chances themselves – despite playing for more than an hour with ten men – and Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone had an absolute stormer.
Yet who really thought Gus Poyet and his confidence-starved players could pull off this victory?
Injury and suspension robbed Poyet of John O’Shea and Wes Brown respectively, so he had to go with a central defensive paring of Modibo Diakite and Valentin Roberge.
How would they get on? Pretty well, as it happens, but goalkeeper Mannone was the real star.
He made half a dozen superb saves. Everton should have scored at least once. Not that anyone on Wearside was complaining.
It’s only one win, of course, but it felt like a big moment. We shall see.
Sunderland’s start set the tone. They harried blue shirts from the off and played decent stuff at times.
After just two minutes, Fabio Borini’s punt proved awkward for Phil Jagielka to deal with and his header back to Tim Howard looked short – the keeper did well to clear from the incoming Steven Fletcher.
If the striker had been fully up to speed, he may have got to the ball first.
A few minutes later and Borini shot over from outside the box. There were small signs of encouragement.
Everton’s Bryan Oviedo gave Mannone work to do on eight minutes with a shot on his left foot from a similar distance as Borini’s earlier effort. The save was simple enough. He would have more to do as the day wore on.
Everton were enjoying a lot of possession, with Sunderland intent (if indeed it was their intention) to sit deep and soak up the pressure.
In saying that, Jack Colback had a shot from distance after being found by a Borini pass on quarter of an hour which went straight to Howard.
Then Everton contrived to hand their visitors a late Christmas present.
From his goal-kick, Howard passed to Leon Osman, whose touch was appalling. That allowed Ki Sung-Yueng a run through on goal which would have taken him around Howard if the American hadn’t tripped him. It was the clearest penalty and red card you will ever see.
Fair play to Ki. It took a while for Joel Robles to take over in goal, the hapless Osman was sacrificed, and yet the Korean coolly tucked away his effort.
Sunderland, with Ki now really in the mood, began to get the ball down and pass it. The best idea against ten men.
After a long series of such passes, all of which seemed to involved Ki to an extent, the ball made its way right for full-back Ondrej Celustka to crash in a shot which Robles saved but spilled – and he did really well to stop Seb Larsson scoring from the rebound.
Everton made it to half-time without any further damage done because Sunderland were afraid to shoot or put in a cross, preferring to pass, pass and pass again. Even when they were winning the players looked low on confidence.
The only shot they had came just before the break from a Larsson free-kick,which was set up perfectly for him – and he skied it.
That was disappointing, as was the sight of Ross Barkley coming on at half-time for Mirallas.
The teenager was magnificent in the second half. However, despite the appearance of English football’s latest great hope, Sunderland had to great chances to score right at the start of the half.
A short corner was played to Lee Cattermole whose cross to back post picked out Fletcher, but the Scot’s header was weak. He is better than that.
Two minutes later and Sunderland missed another one. Larsson whipped in a free-kick from the left, Phil Bardsley knocked it back across goal for Roberge who, six yards from goal, got himself in a muddle and the ball ballooned over.
The hosts then turned a corner and started playing really well.
On 56 minutes, Barkley’s corner was met by the head of Jagielka, cue a top save from Mannone, then the Italian recovered to get in the way of Romelu Lukaku.
Barkley kept finding space to makes passes or shots, which he did on 67 minutes, an effort which bounced right in from of Mannone. The goalkeeper did well to scramble a save.
Within moments Barkley, this time with his left foot, was just inches wide with a long-range drive.
You had to remind yourself at this stage the Wearsiders had a man extra on the field.
Barkley peppered the Sunderland goal with shots and on 76 minutes Mannone produced a stunning save to keep out an equally fine strike by Oviedo which was heading for the top corner.
The game was really stretched.
On several occasions, Sunderland broke in numbers and with purpose, but even when they had a man more the final pass was lacking.
Fletcher kept making runs nobody spotted and then, when a team-mate did pick up a run, when Emanuele Giaccherini threaded a pass to the striker he got his finishing so wrong he managed to put a shot ten yards wide with only Robles to beat.
Then it all got a bit silly.
A foul on Nikica Jelavic by Roberge on the edge of the box put Barkley in a great spot to have a pop.
His effort curled over the wall, but even he couldn’t beat the inspired Mannone. From that corner, Jelavic’s diving header was cleared from under the bar by Borini.
In injury time, Lukaku missed what seemed to be the easiest of headers right in front of goal.
It was Sunderland’s day. Now there is something you haven’t heard too often.