Tottenham Hotspur came from behind on Saturday at Stadium of Light, topping Premier League opponent Sunderland, 2-1, to earn three vital points in its race to win the league.
Things looked bleak for Andre Villas-Boas' squad early, when Sunderland defender John O'Shea buried a 40th-minute goal to put the home team up 1-0 at halftime. But just moments into the second half, the game would change dramatically after defender Carlos Jimenez Cuellar accidentally headed the ball into his own net, leveling the contest at one goal apiece.
Three minutes later Tottenham's Aaron Lennon would put the ball past Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet to give Spurs a 2-1 lead with 40-plus minutes remaining. Like the first 40 minutes, though, the last 45 would produce zero goals, and Tottenham prevailed, 2-1.
As already mentioned, the match was turned on its head quickly in the second half, prompting this tweet from Timothy Matthew, which proved true in the end:
Will be shocked if Sunderland can come back from this. Two quick gut punches. #SUNTOT— Timothy Matthew (@timb0nic) December 29, 2012
Many, like Alex Araujo, acknowledged that Tottenham didn't play its best match but weren't scoffing at the three points won:
Not the best performance & finish from Tottenham but another important 3 pts. Don't think AVB should have taken off 3 quick players. #SUNTOT— Alex Araujo (@alexaraujo89) December 29, 2012
Mehul K felt the same way, but pointed to Tottenham's two strikers as the reason for its narrow victory:
Spurs deserved winners in the end. Created enough chances to win handsomely. Defoe and Adebayor in particular were wasteful. #SUNTOT— Mehul K (@Sports_Fan7) December 29, 2012
In the end, the win is Tottenham's sixth in its last eight EPL matches and propels it past Chelsea for the time being and into third in the league table, behind only Manchester United and Manchester City.
Meanwhile, Sunderland's loss snaps a two-match EPL winning streak and holds it steady at 13th in the league table.
Gareth Bale, Tottenham Hotspur: B
Spurs midfielder Gareth Bale did pick up a late yellow card, but despite that shaky moment, Bale managed to leave his mark on Saturday's match. He made countless runs on the counterattack and often times created solid chances for teammates like Jermain Defoe.
This tweet from Nick Turner best described Bale's effort against Sunderland:
John O'Shea, Sunderland: B
Any time a defender scores the match's first goal, it's impressive. Sunderland defender John O'Shea did just that on Saturday vs. Tottenham, netting a goal in the 40th minute to put his squad up 1-0. Unfortunately, the lead wouldn't survive too long past halftime, as Sunderland collapsed early in the second half.
O'Shea went off in the 67th minute and was replaced by Titus Bramble.
Jermain Defoe, Tottenham Hotspur: C
Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe looked like the talented forward Premier League fans have come to know over the years at times on Saturday, making strong runs with the ball and creating chances for the visiting side.
But he missed several goal opportunities and seemed to leave the match hanging in the balance far too often.
Carlos Jimenez Cuellar, Sunderland: D
Cuellar's own goal to open up the second half proved to be the match's turning point and all but crushed Sunderland's chances of perhaps coming away from Saturday's match with a point, or three.
Dan Osman offered up a potential explanation for Cuellar's gut-wrenching own goal:
I'm guessing Cuellar forgot they changed sides this half #SUNTOT— Dan Osman (@DanOsman_BHAFC) December 29, 2012
To make matters worse, the Sunderland defender was given a yellow card one minute before his own goal.
Aaron Lennon, Tottenham Hotspur: A
Lennon's 51st-minute goal proved to be the match winner for Tottenham, and was a well-deserved one for the English midfielder. The 25-year-old was active throughout Saturday's match and managed to stick with the play that ultimately gave way to his goal.
Andy Crick certainly though highly of Lennon's match winner:
That is a special goal, take a bow Aaron Lennon, take a bow #SUNTOT— Andy Crick (@SunManAndy) December 29, 2012
Lennon was the only Spurs player to score on Saturday, so he deserves the highest mark.
Adam Johnson, Sunderland: C
Sunderland needed Adam Johnson to step up after going down 2-1 in the second half, but he never did. Johnson had chances, but he failed to play some of his best balls and turned in one of the more lackluster performances on Saturday.
Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter.