By ROB STEWART

THERE are times in life when things start getting all a little bit too much and it’s nice to sit back and take stock.

For Chris Coleman that moment came midway through Sunderland’s match at Ashton Gate where the Black Cats were on the wrong end of a mauling.

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Sunderland’s manager had stood in his technical area for just short of 40 minutes watching helplessly as his team disintegrated against promotion-chasing Bristol City.

It was when Famara Diedhiou made it 3-0 for the rampant hosts in the 37th minute that Coleman could stand it no more and retreated to his seat on the front row of the dugout.

While some Sunderland fans headed to the exits to drown their sorrows, Coleman’s decision to take a pew proved to be an inspired move. It gave him thinking time.

And in what proved to be a potentially pivotal half-time break, there were no team cups hurled around, no ranting and raving – just subtle man-management and a tactical change from Coleman.

What followed was a change in fortune that will go down in Sunderland folklore as one of the club’s most memorable of fightbacks.

“I’ve dished out more rollickings and had more stand-up rows and scraps with players than I care to remember,” Coleman said afterwards. “I normally stand up at games but when we went 3-0 down I sat down. I just had to think a bit and try to keep calm which wasn’t easy.”

The manner in which Coleman’s team capitulated in the first half, right in front of the 1,595 away fans in the Atyeo Stand, had been demoralising.

Sunderland had started brightly enough against out-of-form opponents who are clinging on to a play-off place despite winning just two out of 12 games since they beat Manchester United in the Carabao Cup.

Coleman’s team were quickly on the front foot and Ashley Fletcher was first to have a go at goal but his defence was all over the place against lively hosts.

After Billy Jones had to resort to felling the marauding left-back Joe Bryan, Marlon Pack floated over a free-kick and set-piece dangerman Aden Flint was given the freedom of the West Country to beat Lee Camp just five minutes in.

Sunderland looked like they would give City a run for their money but then Sunderland were left looking down and out by half-time.

Diedhiou took maximum advantage, doubling the lead on the half-hour when he outstripped a flat-footed defence and latched on to Bobby Reid’s pass before beating Lee Camp.

Shortly afterwards when Diedhiou narrowly missed the target following Ryan Kent’s low cross, Sunderland fans had had enough and turned on the team in pale blue with a stinging rendition of ‘You’re not fit to wear the shirt.’

They appeared to have a point because the game looked to have been decided when Diedhiou crisply finished a counter-attack, just moments after a Sunderland corner.

Coleman’s team trudged off amid a chorus of boos from the away supporters but then came a transformation after the Welshman collected his thoughts.

“Sometimes you just have got to have a calmer conversation and get them to offer something verbally which they did at half-time,” Coleman said. “Then sometimes you get a bit more clarity out of the situation.”

Coleman went from three-man defence to a back four as Jones moved from wing back and after a few hairy moments as they adjusted, his team played like men possessed to snatch a point.

Midfield lynchpin Lee Cattermole was rightly singled out for praise by Coleman as Sunderland stormed back. Cattermole threw caution to the wind, ditching defensive duties to revitalise his team and seeing his adventure rewarded as his header thudded off the crossbar and went in off Josh Brownhill.

It was the stroke of luck Sunderland deserved but there was nothing fortunate about the second as Cattermole pulled back a free-kick to Aiden McGeady who swept the ball past Frank Fielding.

Amid a frantic finale, City fans were demanding a penalty when Jamie Paterson had his shirt tugged but Lady Luck was smiling on Coleman’s team.

It looked like Sunderland would return home as gallant losers when Frank Fielding pulled off an astonishing point-blank save to deny Fletcher after he had spilled Kazenga LuaLua’s shot.

But there was no stopping Sunderland and an astonishing comeback was sealed in the second minute of stoppage time when Marlon Pack deflected livewire Asoro’s cross beyond Fielding.

Coleman’s team had gone from proverbial heroes to zeroes but there would still be a sting in the tail when they got back to dressing room. “I was more aggressive to them after the game, which is not probably what people would expect,” Coleman said. “That was because we’d gone from such a low to such a high.”