CHRIS COLEMAN is prepared for a test of his nerves in the remaining 12 matches of the relegation run-in, even though he thinks that regular repeats of the Wear-Tees derby spirit will deliver the points required to survive this season.

A 96th minute stoppage-time equaliser from Callum McManaman sealed a point for the Championship’s bottom club against Middlesbrough on Saturday, bringing an end to an enthralling 3-3 draw packed with incident.

It was a result that did little to help either side’s respective aims, with Sunderland still firmly rooted to the foot of the table and four points from safety, while Boro missed out on a chance to climb into the play-off zone.

Both teams led at different stages of the game only to be pegged back and there were also first half sending-offs for both teams with Adama Traore following Jake Clarke-Salter in receiving a red card from referee Tim Robinson.

Coleman would have preferred to have celebrated a third home win under his watch to have given the fight to stay up a real lift at a crucial time of the campaign, although in the end he was satisfied with the outcome. The challenge he has laid down to his players now is to deliver that sort of display week in and week out.

“We are not going to get away from where we are by going through a back door, I know that,” said Coleman. “This is going to go down to the wire. It’s going to be heart attack city every weekend, which I’m not looking forward to, but it’s coming.

“And it’s going to be a fight. If you go into a fight on your hands and knees trying to crawl out of it, you are going to get kicked in the backside. You’ve just got to stand your ground and swing back. In the last two games we’ve started swinging punches back.

“It might make me sound like a Neanderthal, like a caveman, but we are in a relegation dogfight and you’ve got to show up every week. You can’t just show up for 45 minutes.

“Home is hard for us, tough luck is hard for a reason, we haven’t helped ourselves out, we are where we are, we have to face that, but we faced that against Middlesbrough. Away at Bolton we were really good.

“We’ve got no choice now, where we are. There’s no gradual finish here, there or anywhere. Fourth from bottom, we’ve swam the channel from where we are, right now with the games left. There are four or five teams, maybe only four now in our league and we’ve got to top that league, it’s as simple as that.”

Sunderland started brightly and took the lead when Joel Asoro poked a finish over the line in the 11th minute.

Sunderland's progress was rocked when Clarke-Salter was red carded 12 minutes later and that meant a system change, even though Traore was also dismissed before the break.

It was after the restart when the goals started to flow. Middlesbrough took the lead with two quick goals from Patrick Bamford and Grant Leadbitter, only for Jonny Williams to level things up soon after.

And when Bamford restored Middlesbrough’s lead with 22 minutes remaining it looked like Sunderland would lose again, only for McManaman to pounce at the back post to seal a point.

Coleman said: “Since I came in, Callum was playing, then he got injured, so you can’t play him when he’s injured. He’s been back three games and he’s played in two. So he has played here with me. I’m not sure with Simon Grayson, I don’t know what his game time was. With me, he’s definitely had a lot of game time.

“He gave us an impact on Tuesday night, he gave us an impact on Saturday. Maybe I’ve managed a player in the past that doesn’t like me and I don’t like me, and maybe he’d get on with Tony Pulis if he worked with him.  “But I’ve got no issues with Callum, he trains hard every day and he does his best. He’s got something to offer and in the last two games you’ve definitely seen that. When he’s been available with me, he’s had a lot of game time.”

Williams and McManaman’s time at Sunderland since arriving in the summer has been hit by injury problems, so the goals should give both creative players a lift after a difficult couple of years – and a lack of football.

But Coleman is also worried about another of his injury-hit midfielders because Paddy McNair, on his second start since November, had to go off with a groin concern. 

The Sunderland boss said: “A fit Jonny Williams, a fit Paddy McNair are good players at this level. What Jonny does well is he gets those free-kicks on the edge of the box. 

“I think that’s where he probably gets a lot of injuries, he almost entices a challenge and a tackle. But he gets you up the pitch and into the little pockets. 

“His minutes will help him physically but Paddy is one I’m worried about. It was great to see him on Tuesday get through 90 minutes at Bolton. 

“When you’ve been out a long, long time like he has, it sometimes happens, you come back, stop, start, but for us we can’t afford that. We need him fit because he definitely gives us a little bit more when he’s on the pitch.”

And Coleman added: “I feel everyone is a bit more positive. If you really want something to work, you will make it work. It’s all about heart, it’s about courage and personality and mentality, state of mind, all those old fashioned words. We’ve just got to have plenty of that and we will give ourselves a real good chance."

There was an emotional moment at the Stadium of Light when Leadbitter put the ball in the net from the penalty spot in the 53rd minute.  He refused to celebrate in front of the home fans against the club he supported and played for but ran over to the area of the pitch and kissed the floor where his late father’s ashes were buried.

Leadbitter, who was not put up for interview afterwards, has previously spoken of the meaning behind his Stadium of Light celebration after doing the same thing when he scored for Sunderland against Arsenal a decade ago.

The 32-year-old, whose Sunderland supporting father Brian died in 2008 aged just 50, said: “People close to me know why I went down on the floor like I did and why I kissed that area of the ground – my dad’s ashes were buried there.”

Sunderland academy graduate Leadbitter made more than 100 appearances for the Wearside club and was targeted by the Black Cats last summer but Middlesbrough refused to let him go.