Jermain Defoe has been virtually the only bright light, in a dismal season so far for Sunderland. Picture credit: Martin Rickett / PA Archive/PA Images

There was a lot of positivity in the air when Sunderland stayed up last season. They had an experienced manager, and things were only going to improve… or so everyone thought.

So where did it all go wrong for the Wearside club?

Things started to look ominous before the season had even started as Sam Allardyce left to become England manager.

David Moyes was brought in to replace Allardyce and although he has a great deal of management experience, his recent record has been less than impressive.

Moyes took his side to Manchester City for a daunting first game of the season and, although a positive result was never likely against Pep Guardiola’s new side, the performance itself gave the fans reason for optimism.

Sunderland lost 2-1 and defended well throughout the game, with City struggling to break them down for much of the match.

However, despite the positives, the Black Cats came away with no points.

Next up was the Wear-Tees derby, as Moyes’ side hosted Middlesbrough. While many felt that this would be a definite win for Sunderland, it was Boro that took the points in Sunderland’s second successive 2-1 reverse.

However, while the score may have been the same, the performance was anything but. Middlesbrough were on top for most of the game, and it was only when they were already two down that Sunderland started to play.

Despite the result, Sunderland fans saw no reason to panic at this stage. One poor result would hardly shape the season and Shrewsbury Town in the EFL Cup seemed like the perfect opportunity to regain confidence.

However, they struggled to break down the League One strugglers, scraping through thanks to a fine Adnan Januzaj strike.

A well-deserved draw at Southampton followed, but it was a game they should have won, with the Saints equalising five minutes from time, to cancel out Jermain Defoe’s penalty.

Sunderland started September by hosting Everton – who they defeated last season (their last league win) to stay up and relegate Newcastle in the process.

There was no repeat this time, however. A Romelu Lukaku hat-trick gave Everton a 3-0 win, and alarm bells were starting to ring among the home fans.

Defeat at Tottenham followed, before a potential banana skin EFL Cup tie loomed at Championship side Queens Park Rangers.

The Wearsiders survived any potential upset, although it looked likely when Sandro put Rangers ahead, before a rare double from Paddy McNair, saved their blushes.

Another winnable game was next – Crystal Palace at the Stadium of Light – and the general mood was one of confidence.

Fans were even more buoyed when the home side took a 2-0 lead – Jermain Defoe getting both goals – and it looked as though Sunderland were on course for a first Premier League win under Moyes.

But it was not to be, as goals from Joe Ledley and James McArthur drew Palace level before a demoralising 94th minute winner was headed home by Christian Benteke to give the Londoners all three points.

October was no kinder to Sunderland, which saw them get only one point. It came in the first game of the month – a 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion – which little to improve Sunderland’s situation.

A 2-0 loss to Stoke City followed and a 1-0 last-minute defeat to struggling West Ham, the week after, meant their predicament seemed nothing short of desperate.

Up next was the EFL Cup tie away to Southampton.

Sunderland were back at St Marys in the EFL Cup next, and with things going well in the competition and their recent draw in the league fixture, had fans feeling optimistic of getting a positive result.

They didn’t get one though, as Southampton’s summer signing Boufal scored the only goal of the game, meaning the promising cup run was over.

Arsenal then thrashed Sunderland 4-1 at the Stadium of Light, despite yet another goal from the penalty spot for Jermain Defoe – the equaliser briefly giving the loyal home fans some hope.

But three goals in seven minutes for the Gunners – two from substitute Olivier Giroud and one from Arsenal’s Chilean star Alexis Sanchez, who also scored their opener – saw the visitors home and dry.

After a dreadful October ended, November arrived with a trip to the Vitality Stadium to face Bournemouth. With all the odds seemingly stacked against Sunderland, they pulled off a remarkable win – despite playing most of the second half with just ten men with Steven Pienaar being dismissed for two yellow cards after an hour.

Dan Gosling opened the scoring for the Cherries, but Victor Anichebe levelled for the vistors before Pienaar’s sending-off.

Given the situation, anyone would have forgiven Sunderland for parking the bus and playing for a point. But with Jermain Defoe in your side, you often only need one chance.

Another goal from the diminutive Defoe gave Sunderland a much-needed win, and saw him draw level with Les Ferdinand on 149 goals in the Premier League all time scorers list.

With that win, another international break seems to have arrived at the wrong time. But if Sunderland can build on their win on the south coast, they still have every chance of survival.