ALL good things must come to an end and the 12-match unbeaten run that put Sunderland firmly back in the promotion mix is over.

But while defeat to in-form Charlton Athletic was disappointing, the message from inside Lee Johnson’s dressing room is that playing Championship football next season remains in their own hands.

With seven matches remaining, two more than leaders Hull City and one fewer than second-placed Peterborough United, the respective eight and five point gaps to the two teams above them can be eradicated.

What League One has shown this season, though, is that results can’t be taken for granted.

Sunderland must deliver and, with both Posh and the Tigers on song, there isn’t really any more room for a slip up if a top-two place is going to be achieved on May 8; starting with tomorrow night’s trip to Wigan Athletic.

Johnson’s side must still go to Hull on Tuesday week, so if Sunderland can win every game between now and the end of the season then that deficit to the men from Humberside will have been erased.

Versatile Luke O’Nien, playing impressively at centre-back during the recent good run, said: “We don’t need to panic at all. We need to look at ourselves after this defeat, we have had a lot of clean sheets, we have been on a good run of form and we need to go on another good run of form.

“One hundred per cent we can finish top two. Ask any player in that dressing room, any member of staff, we know it is up for grabs. There is so much football to go.

“We have still got it in our hands. There will be plenty chopping and changing I can assure you of that.

“It is disappointing to lose games, of course it is, it is the time to reflect and learn, become better players and people. There are a few down, but equally we have been on a hell of run of form and we have to go on another run starting Tuesday.

“You have a changing room full of winners, even in five-a-side game we all want to win. That’s the standards we set.”

Things might have been different against Charlton had Charlie Wyke scored one of his two great chances early on. The first was a volley, albeit on the stretch, which he sent wide after some clever play from Aiden McGeady.

The second was even more clear-cut. After robbing Darren Pratley, Wyke was clear on goal but with just the goalkeeper to beat Sunderland’s leading scorer was denied by former Manchester United goalkeeper Ben Amos.

Wyke’s 27 goals this season have been a major factor in the turnaround under Johnson and Sunderland’s lofty position. He needs to find his feet in front of goal again, however, as this was the fifth game in a row he hasn’t found the net.

Amos actually made a number of good saves over the course of the 90 minutes but in reality Charlton, who are now eight matches unbeaten and sit just outside the top six, were just as dangerous in possession; if not more so.

There were claims for a foul when Josh Scowen’s attempted clearance from the goalline ended up in his own net just after half an hour. Those centred on Ryan Inniss’ header in the penalty area, which Lee Burge couldn’t hold, when he rose strongly with those in red and white shirts.

The second goal just after the hour was all Sunderland’s own making. With Johnson looking to get four substitutes on, he managed two.

Lynden Gooch was one who had to remain on because the fourth official’s board wasn’t ready and he failed to track Alex Gilbey, who slid a finish through Burge’s legs. That opportunity stemmed from a long throw and a flick on which Sunderland should have done better with.

Scowen did make amends for his first half error by diving low to head into an empty net from 20 yards with 13 minutes remaining, but Sunderland couldn’t find that extra gear to avoid a first defeat since February 9.

While Johnson accepted defeat he was clearly unhappy with some of his players’ displays, suggesting there will be changes for Tuesday and then, probably, beyond.

He said: “I will look back at that objectively, but there were too many fundamentals not good enough.

“Sometimes that is the strength of the opponent as well, but we have to believe in ourselves, not be too disappointed.

"We are good at reaffirming the positive side of things. Picking the team is important now, to make sure we tick the boxes and to trust everyone to do the job.

“I think we are definitely honest. I don’t want to drown players in weaknesses, we concentrate on the strengths the boys have to keep learning and not just focus on one action, one game.

"This is a process we are trying to improve over a long period of time.

“If you get enough chances, we fancy ourselves to convert at a decent rate. We have proven that over a run of games.

"But we carried two or three individuals in this game and you can’t do that against a top-seven or eight side. I will have to look back at that.”