Is it a derby then? Of course it is. It is from our end of the A19 hotbed corridor anyway.
And a famous one too: Boro’s first win on their return to the Premier League, against the neighbours and marked by two superb goals that have sizzled into folklore.
Smarting Sunderland fans are frantically spinning the “weez not bothered” line but it will hurt them to have been turned over in a superb battling Boro away day display.
It wasn’t one for the purists. Derbies are rarely decided on artistic merit. Boro made hard work of it in a scrappy second half when they were under the cosh for long spells – but that won’t stop us beaming over the banter barricades.
And when we look back on it, it won’t be the tension and creeping fear and frantic fire-fighting that we remember but two superb goals, one a solo sizzler and the other a sublimely engineered team goal.
It was a scrappy and frantic affair marked by heart-stopping moments as errors went unpunished and a familiar feeling of nausea as the pressure mounted.
But wow! Two brilliant goals changed the game and the emotional landscape and it is those it will be remembered. And now we can all have a beer and celebrate. Aitor pressed the PR buttons and dedicated derby victory to the fans and it was one we can enjoy. Now.
There was a subdued build-up with some tense faces in the Sunderland concourses and nervous whispers in the press room. They were not confident after a shaky summer and transfer turmoil leaving them with a makeshift defence.
You could hear Boro fans roaring from above the snow line but the home crowd was mute until after the classical pre-match string section stirrings of Prokofiev. On kick-off the Sunderland fans decided to join in and the atmosphere cranked up a notch. And they were encouraged by a jittery start from Boro with some sloppy distribution and moments of indecision at the back that gave David Moyes men the early initiative.
A couple of wriggling moves and dangerous crosses from local lad Gooch and last year’s next big thing Januzaj had Boro on the back foot and the Mackem fans edging towards a position that yes, actually, it was a derby after all.
Then BANG! Boro were in front out of the blue as Cristhian Stuani – who’s inclusion had obviously been slated before kick-off – channelled Soul-Glo Samba superstar Emerson and unleashed an absolute Exocet.
A slip by £8m stunning Scrabble score stopper Papy Djilobodji in the centre-circle opened the door and quick slotted ball forward sent the Uruguayan free to carry forward unchallenged then he struck the sweet spot to launch a molecule melting missile that screamed past static Mannone and into the far top corner.
The shot sizzled straight into the list of legendary leathered wonder goals on Wearside and sparked jubilant cheering and jeering from the Boro end – and a faint hint of laughter from the Newcastle direction too.
Boro had a bright spell as Gaston Ramirez sent in a shot that deflected and looped into the hands of the keeper then Adam Forshaw fired wide. Then Sunderland pressed forward and started to go more direct and knock long balls into the box that Boro gobbled up. Hey, we’ve been in the Championship. We can do this all day.
When that Sunderland flurry fizzled out Boro started to assert themselves with a couple of perceptive sharp probes on the break. Moyes’ men suddenly looked very vulnerable and Aitor Karanka’s side ruthlessly exploited that.
One sweeping, crisp, four-man passing move scythed through the makeshift Mackem back-line and ended with over-lapping George Friend megging a flailing full-back to get into the box but Negredo’s effort was deflected. Then Boro grabbed the game by the throat as they sliced through Sunderland again just before the break.
Alert Adam Forshaw seized onto a deft Ramirez back-heel and wriggled inside then played a perfectly weighted reverse pass into the box for Negredo to sell Rodwell a mannikin that was gift-wrapped and sent express delivery by a uniformed chauffeur then with Sunderland braced for the shot the striker squared unselfishly for unmarked Stuani free to slam home his second from close range. Borocelona! It was a goal executed with a clinical scalpel-wielding precision rarely seen outside an operating theatre.
Sunderland were booed off and their fans were tripping over their jaws in the concourse at the break while Boro partied and laughed and made merry up in the Gods. Ironically, apart from the last 10 minutes, Boro hadn’t played particularly well or fluently. In fact, they had endured a torrid opening spell and were forced to work hard to stay in the game, to regain composure and to start to find some rhythm and space to hurt Sunderland on the break.
After the break Boro showed the other side of the Karanka coin: digging deep, tracking back, doubling up on attackers, throwing bodies in the way, blocking, heading, tackling, snarling, forcing the opposition into desperate long shots or wayward hopeful balls.
We will all remember it well from last term when Boro were developing vital skills and a mass defence muscle memory that should serve them well this time out.
There were scares as Defoe went down theatrically in the box, Januzaj scooped one off his thigh high into the air when through, Brad Guzan saved well from van Aanholt and Ben Gibson blocked superbly from a point blank piledriver.
But the pressure – and the faint, familiar stomach knotting and icy cold hand of fear on the heart – was intensifying by the moment and the atmosphere had changed dramatically.
The home fans were roaring their side on and Boro were watching through their fingers – at home you may have been behind the settee – and the inevitable goal was clawed back, Brad Guzan failing to hold a low shot and van Annholt reacting quickest to the rebound.
Soon after the keeper fumbled again at the feet of a striped shirt and the ball was scrambled away for a corner leaving anxious Boro fans reeling from a Brad Jones flashback and for a spell it looked as if the hard work would go to waste but Boro beavered away an held on in a Trojan defensive enterprise, a blur of bodies blocking and sheer will-power.
It was an important win. The first victory of the season. That’s two unbeaten now. And four points in the bank. And there is a growing belief that we belong here and can hold our own. All useful building blocks in what will be a long, hard season.
And we can watch local TV news reporting Sunderland’s ‘not a derby’ defeat with a satisfied smile.
Meanwhile, following the midweek discussion on the Gazette switch to marks out of 10, here’s my player ratings for the game. What do you think? Fair?