WHEN Sunderland’s players head for the Stadium of Light again for this afternoon’s game, the importance of securing three points is just as great as it was seven days ago when Fulham visited.

The fight to avoid relegation presents the next challenge of facing the Championship’s bottom club, Birmingham, when there will be nervous tension felt inside the half empty 48,000-capacity venue.

But there is, of course, one huge difference this week. There is no longer the hoodoo hanging over the players of failing to win in front of their own fans for 21 matches.

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There is also the extra bonus for the players of feeling like they claimed back a few hearts and minds last week, having dug deep to deliver and conjure up a result.

That was reflected in the noise from the stands, particularly from the moment Josh Maja hit the winner with 13 minutes remaining until the final whistle – when the relief was felt from Seaham to Seaburn.

Having experienced how positive the vibe can be, the challenge is for the players to do the same again today and lift Sunderland clear of danger and to a brighter future.

Tyias Browning, who only moved from Everton on loan in the summer, was impressed and wants to help ensure the better atmosphere was not just a one-off.

He said: “We’ve had little glimpses of when we've scored a goal or towards the end of the Fulham game of what it can be like at the Stadium of Light when things are going well.

"It can be a great experience. I was told about it before I came. I had been told nothing but good things about this club and the atmosphere at the home games.

"A lot of people have said we hadn't yet experienced the proper Stadium of Light atmosphere and I think the Fulham game was the first time we did."

Despite Coleman’s positive outlook and approach to training and matches, he also got to experience at first-hand what a difficult place the Stadium of Light had become to play in when they lost to Reading.

That was his first match in charge and, even though he felt the fans were justified to boo the players after another sorry performance, just through bad results over a long period of time a subdued mood has fallen on Sunderland’s home.

Browning said: “The manager told us not to think about what the crowd is thinking and just to focus on the game. Sometimes that can affect your performance so you’ve got to blank it out sometimes.

“The stadium was a lot louder against Fulham, especially towards the end. It was quite a nervy last 10, 15 minutes after we scored, everybody was on edge and we had to calm down a bit and not act like we’d never been in the lead before.”

Sunderland have actually been ahead in ten games this season and only ended up winning three of those, and two have been during Coleman’s five matches at the helm.

No matter what Simon Grayson tried he could not come up with a way to stop the rot, failing to build on the early win at Norwich and going 16 league matches without success –Coleman’s first match was the last of those at Aston Villa.

Browning said: “It was difficult, especially the home games. It was a relief to get a win because I know a lot of the fans were on our backs and rightly so. It was tough but now that we’ve found our feet – hopefully I haven’t jinxed us – we can keep going.

“You’d like to think our season was just starting now and forget about everything that happened before. When we won at Burton it felt like a long time since our last win - Norwich (in August) feels like a long, long time ago so it’s nice to find our feet.”