When Jack Colback capped another rapier red-and- white counter-attack with the most composed of finishes to confirm Sunderland’s utter superiority in this extraordinary St James’ Park derby, Gus Poyet did not slide to his knees with his face contorted in delight.
Nor did he punch the air or roar in triumph.
Instead, he beckoned for the Sunderland bench to stay calm, returning his hands to his pockets as chaos broke out in front of him.
Like a heavyweight boxer who had just landed a knockout blow, Poyet saw no reason to take another swing at his opponents as they crashed to the ground.
Of all of trio of Black Cat triumphs which have so damaged Alan Pardew’s Newcastle, this felt like the most significant.
The two others might have been more important – coming, as they did with Sunderland on their knees and desperate for points – but this was the first when the Black Cats were so dominant over regional rivals who had started to feel their superiority was written into North East football’s DNA over the last decade.
Not any more. The days when we used to ponder the nature of the psychological hold Newcastle and in particular Shola Ameobi had over Sunderland are long gone, replaced – for the time being at least – with the memory of this dominant display.
There was no mitigation, no mealy-mouthed excuse about fatigue or not getting the rub of the green. A reinvigorated Sunderland played superbly, comprehensively won the crucial battle for midfield and fully merited a victory that was not given any kind of unfair gloss by the 3-0 scoreline.
For the football club Poyet has managed to transform in a little over four months, that is very significant indeed.
Not since the 5-1 defeat Steve Bruce suffered four years ago has there been a derby as one-sided as this one. Had you stood with Poyet in the cramped corridor of the Liberty Stadium after his team suffered a 4-0 reverse against a not-particularly decent Swansea side you might have wondered whether he had the raw material in his shell-shocked squad to achieve a single win, never mind vault such a significant red and white hurdle.
Yet Poyet seemed to believe, even when some of his players might have been having their doubts.
The players he picked up off the floor that day were magnificent at St James’ Park, the clutch of lost boys he has rehabiitated making a major contribution to this valedictory victory.
Nineteen minutes were on the clock when Adam Johnson and Phil Bardsley exchanged passes to tee up the latter in the Newcastle penalty area.
The right-back has been superb since the recall many fans were utterly opposed to when Poyet brought him in from the cold, but on this day he was lauded from the stands in recognition of his contribution.
Bardsley was on the charge when Johnson, delightfully, flicked the ball into his path.
The out-of-sorts Vurnon Anita barged into the right-back, offering Phil Dowd the easiest call of the season – and Fabio Borini the chance to plunge the knife into black and white hearts once more.
Sunderland had already established supremacy by the time of the opening goal, Liam Bridcutt’s convincing debut changing the dynamic of the Black Cats’ midfield.
His tidy, efficient turn in front of the back four allowed Jack Colback and Ki Sung-Yeung the time and space to roam freely. Newcastle had barely had the chance to react when Sunderland hit a second.
Jozy Altidore’s skilful back heel created space for Colback to drive into the penalty area, and when his shot looped off Steven Taylor’s out-stretched boot it left Tim Krul in no-man’s land and allowed Johnson the simplest of finishes.
The home side groped desperately for any kind of riposte, but key men let them down.
Hatem Ben Arfa had been exquisite in midweek but was dreadful on Saturday, ceding possession time and time again to Sunderland’s hungrier midfielders.
Anita, so often a paragon of efficient, tidy distribution, went from cool playmaker to crude wrecker and had already fouled Bardsley once before his costly penalty tackle. Santon was shocking. Ameobi – goalless in the Premier League this season – ploughed a lone furrow up front and never looked like reprising his role as Sunderland’s tormentor.
A header which flashed wide was one golden opportunity but a well-drilled Black Cats back four had the measure of him and was able to cope with Newcastle’s mystifying tendency to go direct. Poyet, again, out-thought Pardew.
A third Sunderland goal could have arrived long before Colback’s goal as Sunderland played the sort of neat, rapid and intelligent football which Newcastle had made their hallmark during their pre-Christmas surge into the top five.
Poyet’s team have progressed since then but United are regressing and looked like a team which had their heart ripped out.