When Stoke equalised, I felt it was deserved. Possibly on each occasion. It was, all the same, a game we did enough to win and should have won. And contrived, undeservedly but in part through our own lamentable failings, to lose.
Sunderland were unlucky and lucky and unlucky in turn.
Lee Probert had a dreadful game, generally succumbing to the clamour of home fans with the decisions that mattered or were borderline or both.
He utterly ignored the bullying of Craig Gordon by the big, hard men – I almost wrote thugs -of Stoke at set pieces. He spotted every Sunderland infraction but missed several from Stoke.
But we were fortunate in goalmouth scrambles more than once and were all too often prone to panic and desperation around the goal line. And it was Gordon’s inability to command the six-yard area, not always but sometimes, that ultimately played a part in costing us the points.
Either of the goals that twice put us in front, from Richardson and Gyan, ought to have sealed our third successive away Premier win.
But even when we seemed to be heading into relatively comfortable passages of play while ahead, we were vulnerable whenever the ball went out of play for a Stoke attacking throw or a corner.
So to that extent, I do not blame poor officials for the defeat. We should be clever enough, mature enough to deal with the counter-attacks of teams we are leading.
The first equaliser, inevitably following one of Delap’s stream of dangerous long throws, depended on the officials arguably missing a foul on Craig Gordon, a handball by Ryan Shawcross and a clearly offside final touch by Carew.
It was no special surprise that Lee Probert and his linesman missed any of these three reasons for questioning the goal’s legitimacy.
Much earlier, some time even before Muntari was correctly booked for a bad tackle on Etherington, the officials had also missed not only a blatant red card offence by Shawcross (a sneaky tug on the shirt of Gyan, who would otherwise have been one on one with Begovic) but also allowed Shawcross to get away unpunished, apart from the free kick, for a trip after being sweetly beaten by Sessegnon.
I don’t want to see opponents shown cards unreasonably, but it was as straightforward a yellow as you will ever witness.
With the exception of that cynical foul on Sessegnon, each of these transgressions may well have been hard for Probert and his men on the line to spot.
For all that, Probert had a poor game. He should have punished the brutish conduct of Stoke players in our box. The second equaliser looked offside too; where’s Sian Massey when you need her?
Tony Pulis, to no surprise, recalled the unspotted goal line handball by Lee Cattermole in our 2-0 win at the Stadium of Light, implying that Stoke fully deserved to get the benefit of every doubt today.
But if Probert gets off the hook, it will not because he tried to make amends for another official’s error but because our defence also had a poor game, collectively, and went missing far, far too often, putting themselves under unremitting pressure by needlessly conceding so many free kicks, throws and corners. And then failing to defend them with confidence. These are not the marks of a top six club.