Four Premier League teams have limited themselves to one loss or less since the middle of December: Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Sunderland.
The Black Cats are 4-4-1 since Dec. 14, and they'll try to continue their improbable and drastic turnaround Saturday when goal-starved Hull City visit the Stadium of Light.
Only Chelsea, with three goals against in the nine-match span, have conceded fewer than Sunderland's six. The excitement likely peaked Saturday when the Black Cats (6-6-12) went to St. James' Park and won the return leg of the Tyne-Wear derby by a convincing 3-0 score over Newcastle United.
"We need to stay focused and continue doing what we are doing," goalkeeper Vito Mannone told the club's official website. "We're improving and we've more chances to progress and get better and although we've not achieved anything yet, finally we have a team who knows how to deal with each game and can handle the pressure they bring and go on and get important wins."
Against Newcastle, Sunderland got goals from Fabio Borini, Adam Johnson and Jack Colback while midfielder Liam Bridcutt made his Sunderland debut after arriving from Brighton.
But the focus remained on Johnson, who has scored in a career-best four straight top-flight matches. The midfielder has six of his seven goals in that span after scoring once in his first 12 starts this season. He scored five times in 35 starts a season ago.
"Adam is on fire at the moment, scoring another goal, the team are in good shape," manager Gus Poyet said. "I'm very happy for Jack too. It was an important goal at 2-0 up and it sealed the game for us."
Sunderland haven't lost in four matches, a 3-1-0 stretch in which they've outscored opponents 10-3 and kept consecutive clean sheets. The Black Cats have won back-to-back league matches for the first time this season, and after continually being reminded of the threat of relegation early in the season, they find themselves flirting with a rise to the middle of the table and joining Hull, Swansea City and Norwich City all with 24 points.
"We have been under pressure to get back-to-back wins," Poyet said. "This is an unbelievable weekend for everybody close to Sunderland football club."
Though they have the same record, Hull (6-6-12) aren't as cheerful at the moment. They just scored their first goal of 2014 and earned their first point in a 1-1 home draw with Tottenham Hotspur. The Tigers had lost their previous four matches, and before newcomer Shane Long's 12th-minute goal against Spurs the Tigers had gone 378 minutes without celebrating.
Long, making his debut at the KC Stadium in his second match with the club after moving from West Bromwich Albion last month, was set up by fellow newcomer Nikica Jelavic, who landed with the Tigers from Everton.
Together, Hull hope the pair can bring the club a much-needed reinvention up top.
"I can sense an understanding there and it's exciting," Long told the club's official website. "Nikica is a very good player and easy to play with. The first thing we think about when we get the ball is where on the pitch the other one is. Although it is still early days, I think it can grow into something good."
Hull, who are tied with Stoke City with a Premier League-low five away points, will be looking to take all six points against the Black Cats after a 1-0 home win on Nov. 2 against a nine-man Sunderland side.
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