A game that seemed destined early on to repeat the extraordinary 4-4 draw between the teams in their epic play-off final four years ago ended with Charlton the happier again. Kevin Lisbie's late goal secured them the point they required to banish any fear of relegation, but Sunderland left for the long journey home knowing they would need to take something from their last match of a miserable season. It is just as well that their final, vital encounter is at home to Derby County.
Before the game the Valley bade an emotional farewell to Clive Mendonca, the second Charlton striker in successive seasons - after Andy Hunt - to be forced into premature retirement through injury. Of his 45 goals in 89 starts for the club, the best remembered were, of course, the three against yesterday's opponents in the finger- biting 1998 play-off final, all the more dramatic for coming against the club he has always supported.
Since then both teams seemed to have established themselves at the higher level, before sliding down the table recently amid a dearth of goals. Charlton, with Jason Euell acquitting himself well but Jonatan Johansson not repeating last season's form, have missed both Hunt and Mendonca, while Sunderland suddenly found the archetypal little and large partnership of Kevin Phillips and Niall Quinn floundering. They put that right yesterday, after a run in which Quinn had not scored since Boxing Day, nor his nippy little partner since 2 February. Their manager Peter Reid admitted: "The problem is there for all to see. We've had chances but not taken them and our performances have not been acceptable."
Quinn had his fellow Irish international Kevin Kilbane feeding him from the right flank, but both Claudio Reyna and Gavin McCann were missing from the centre of midfield. The home side picked the promising young Paul Konchesky to mark Kilbane, ahead of England's Chris Powell, who was on the substitutes' bench. There was still no return for a trio of injured players all hoping to be at the World Cup this summer in Denmark's Claus Jensen and the South African pair Mark Fish and Shaun Bartlett.
Despite Reid's diagnosis, it was the visitors' defence that looked the weak link - though no more so than Charlton's - as the goals flew in. Sixty-three seconds had passed before Johansson latched on to a quick throw-in down the right and crossed for Euell to half-volley his 11th goal of the season. …