Sam Allardyce has challenged Sunderland to end their Barclays Premier League relegation fears on Wednesday night after scrapping their way to a precious victory over Chelsea.
The Black Cats beat the Blues 3-2 at the Stadium of Light on a day when Norwich lost at home to Manchester United and Newcastle could only draw at relegated Aston Villa.
The results mean three points against Everton in their penultimate game will keep Sunderland up, and send the Canaries and Magpies down.
Allardyce said: “Our destiny is in our own hands. We have turned it around with a big victory.
“Obviously Newcastle drawing and Norwich losing has put us in a very good position. Now we must take full advantage of that position and try to finish it off on Wednesday.
“But we have still got to be very professional and very driven on Wednesday night to try to make sure that when we finish that game, we are safe.
“Hopefully we will not jangle our nerves any longer than we need to, certainly me, the staff, the fans, everybody concerned. There were so many people biting their nails today in the last few minutes because it was such a tense last few minutes because it was such a big result.”
Sunderland had to fight all the way to win a game which looked to be Chelsea’s for the taking at half-time.
Wahbi Khazri had dragged them back into it with a stunning volley to cancel out Diego Costa’s 14th-miunute opener, only for Nemanja Matic to restore the visitors’ lead in stoppage time at the end of the first half.
However, Fabio Borini’s 67th-minute equaliser set the stage for Jermain Defoe to win it with his 18th goal of the season three minutes later.
Allardyce praised the veteran striker, and said: “That’s 15 goals now – is it 18 in all competitions? – in a team that’s been in the bottom three most of the season. It’s a miraculous return – and I have to say, though, he’s not been starved of service.
“For a struggling side at the bottom, we have given him some good service this year, some good opportunities to score those goals, so it’s not as if he hasn’t had the opportunities, we have served him well in that department.
“For me, it’s a pleasing factor that he scores goals continuously while he plays up front on his own, which people tried to suggest that he couldn’t do and he has proved everybody wrong.
“He certainly can play that role very, very well.”
It proved an agonisingly tense conclusion to the game, even for Allardyce, who admitted earlier this week that he uses transcendental meditation to calm his nerves.
The 61-year-old said: “Today for a manager had all the thrills and spills and the worries and the tension that you get at this level of football.
“It’s been the thrills and spills, the ups and downs, and then of course a tense last few minutes, particularly when we gave the free-kick away on the edge of our box.
“I didn’t know whether I wanted to shoot the referee or I wanted shoot the defender who brought Costa down, but we managed to survive it and that’s what’s very important, we got the three points.”