Forty-six league games, two Play-Off matches, and twelve cup tie finally comes down to this.
Sunderland’s 61st competitive match – and their last – of the 2018-19 season is their biggest and most decisive one yet as Charlton Athletic stand in their way for a place in the Sky Bet Championship.
A whirlwind year has seen new owners settle and a regime under Jack Ross begin with a host of new playing well and truly buying into the ethos of the club.
While the road hasn’t always been smooth, the Lads have dealt with the bumps along the way well, losing just three league games up until the final week of the season.
With an appearance in the Checkatrade Trophy Final too this campaign, the Black Cats head to familiar surroundings on Sunday at Wembley Stadium as they look to do what they’ve failed to on their last six visits to the national stadium – win.
Much of the pre-match talk has been about the famous ’98 Play-Off Final which saw the Addicks come out as narrow winners.
Sunderland-born Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick for Alan Curbishley’s Charlton in a high-octane 4-4 draw before penalties determined the outcome, with another Wearside-born man in the form of Micky Gray missing the all-important spot kick for the Black Cats.
Fast forward to the present day and the Lads head south having taken four points off Lee Bowyer’s side this term.
A 2-1 win on the opening day of the season saw Ross’ revolution get underway in fine fashion as Lynden Gooch’s stoppage-time header prompted mass celebrations.
In January 2019, Sunderland then took on Charlton at The Valley and collected a credible point as Luke O’Nien’s early volley was later cancelled out by a Reece James own goal.
The Lads are boosted going into Sunday, with Aiden McGeady in contention to return after missing the last four games.
McGeady has been nursing a foot injury sustained at Accrington Stanley in early April and hasn’t featured since Sunderland’s final home game of the regular season, a 1-1 draw against Portsmouth.
The 33-year-old had hoped to play some part in the Play-Off semi-final against Pompey, and while he was initially named on the starting XI in the first leg he was forced to withdraw from the warm-up.
However, a two-week rest has served McGeady well and Ross revealed at his press conference on Wednesday that the wing wizard is close to a return.
Charlton have been the league’s form side since the turn of the year, recording 14 wins since January 1.
Just two defeats in the second half of the regular season saw Lee Bowyer’s side rocket into third place, made possible with 10 wins in their last 12.
Lyle Taylor has been the Addick’s star man, racking up 22 league goals and providing 10 assists. The former AFC Wimbledon man also has form against Sunderland, having netted Charlton’s opening goal of the season at the Stadium of Light back in August 2018.
Charlton booked their place at Wembley after winning on penalties against Doncaster Rovers. Following a 4-4 draw on aggregate after 210 minutes of action, the south east London club came out on top go one better than the previous two seasons and reach the Play-Off Final.
KEY WEMBLEY INFORMATION
All you need to know about what you can and can’t take into Wembley Stadium with you can be found - here.
KEEP UP TO DATE WITH THE ACTION
If you’re unable to make the journey to London, you can join your fellow supporters at the Stadium of Light. Including food and one drink upon arrival*, tickets for the event are priced at £10 per person. To soak in the Play-Off drama at the SoL alongside the red and white army, call 0371 911 1973 or book online at www.safc.com/playoff.
BBC Radio Newcastle’s Nick Barnes will be broadcasting live right here on safc.com from 1:30pm.
As ever, there will be comprehensive coverage across our digital channels including safc.com’s matchday blog and live updates on Twitter via @SunderlandAFC.