MOMENTUM is crucial in football, and Sunderland have lost theirs at precisely the moment they were looking for overdrive.

Heading into the final month of the campaign right in the hunt for an automatic promotion spot, those realistic hopes have been extinguished by a horror run of three straight defeats in eight days.

But it is the two defeats in the space of four days in the North West that have really dampened the mood of long-suffering Black Cats fans.

While the loss at play-off contenders Blackpool on Saturday did not match the disappointment of the defeat at relegation-threatened Wigan last Tuesday, there was still a sinking feeling at the end.

For the first time since March 2018, when Chris Coleman’s side were on their way to Championship ignominy, Sunderland had lost three in a row.

Now this bad run means they will almost certainly have to secure promotion through the agony of the play-offs and no-one needs reminding of how previous goes at the end-of-season lottery have ended up.

But to be confident of grabbing the third and final ticket back to the Championship, Sunderland have to find some results in their last five games. First, they need to wrap up their place in the top six rather than face an anxious scramble on the final day.

However, they would want to go into the play-offs with some positive momentum. Two years ago, they were stalling in the last few weeks under Jack Ross thanks to a run of one win in the final seven games in the regular season. Confidence was dented and there was never a sense of conviction about getting the job done. Ultimately that was played out in another miserable trip to Wembley for the play-off final defeat to Charlton.

The Addicks were the opposite of that as Lee Bowyer’s men had finished the season with seven wins out of eight and momentum on their side.

With an automatic spot now all but out of the question, Blackpool could yet be decisive opponents for the course of the Black Cats’ campaign.

Sitting in fifth place, three points behind and with a game in hand, the Seasiders travel up to the Stadium of Light a week tomorrow for a rearranged game that should have been played last October, while they could also be potential play-off rivals next month.

So there was an element of two sides feeling each other out for large parts of Saturday’s game at Bloomfield Road.

The stats were largely in the visitors’ favour over the course of 90 minutes, with twice as much possession, more shots on and off target and lots more corners, but the key one was not.

Blackpool boss Neil Critchley described Sunderland as the 'best team they had faced', but as it was, the match was defined in the space of 60 seconds just before the hour mark.

At one end, Aiden McGeady produced the bit of magic the Black Cats needed, beating goalkeeper Chrs Maxwell with his curling effort only to strike the inside of the far post.

Blackpool went up the other end and somehow left-back Luke Garbutt’s low ball across the box ended up in the net, taking a deflection off Bailey Wright and squirming through Lee Burge’s grasp.

Having been very little in the game up until that point, the hosts had something to hang on to for the remainder as Johnson’s side tried to increase their tempo.

But while Maxwell made one good save from Josh Scowen and Daniel Ballard hooked one off the line from Luke O’Nien, an equaliser was not forthcoming.