I must admit, I was not too confident going in to this game. With Carroll and Tiote missing and the Stevenage debacle fresh in mind I would have agreed to take a draw before kick off. Funny then that come full time I was disappointed that we only left with a draw because we comprehensively outplayed them in all areas, again.
The team from the village of the damned were seeking only their 2nd home win over the boys from the big City up the road in three decades, but it soon became obvious that they would not have it all their own way as many of them (including their plastic Geordie manager) assumed they would.
Bruce spent a lot of time in the past 2 weeks talking about 'revenge' and what song he would play to wind up the Newcastle fans at full time after they'd beaten us. I have no idea what song he chose - 'Loser' by Beck would be my suggestion, or maybe 'Bigmouth Strikes Again' by The Smiths.
It took only a couple of minutes for Newcastle to forge their first chance - Joey Barton played a fantastic ball through to Shola putting him one on one with Gordon. Shola slotted it past the keeper but it also went wide of the post - a truly awful effort.
Not too long after that Harper saved well from the largely anonymous Darren Bent as the opening minutes were played at an incredible tempo.
In the opening exchanges Mike Williamson looked very nervous. Fortunately for him he had Super Colo alongside him - the curly wigged Argie put in one of his finest performances in a black & white shirt and with his guidance Williamson found his way into the game and ended up putting in a solid performance.
Up top Leon Best did his finest impression of Fulchester United striker, the invisible 'Johnny X'. Either that or the winner of a "play in a derby match" contest. The game went on around him and he barely featured. It got me wondering how awful Xisco must be to not even manage a spot on the bench no matter who is unavailable! To be fair to Leon though he has not played too many games this season so this was a big ask, and as the world of Twitter may put it - #LeonBestIsMint
Alan Smith started in midfield and was putting himself about (obviously) before Richardson put him out of the game with a challenge that could easily have seen Smith leave on a stretcher with a broken ankle. Guthrie replaced Smith and put in a decent shift. Not too long after that Webb the 'homer' booked Joey Barton, presumably because he is called Joey Barton. (Interestingly the foul count at full time read Sunderland 16, Newcastle 5 but 1 player a side was booked).
We absolutely bossed the midfield just as we did in the slaughter just over 2 months ago. Jordan Henderson was this week named in the 'FIFA Ones to Watch for 2011' - every time I watch him I can't actually find him. I suspect he is residing in Joey Barton's pocket.
We have been guilty of terribly slow starts to the second half under Pardew (and Hughton at times) but 7 minutes into this one Kevin Nolan back-heeled his 10th Premier League goal of the season. Barton swung over the corner, Shola won the header, Leon Best flicked it on (it may have looked to the casual observer like the ball merely bounced off Best's head with him having no idea where it was when in fact it is far more likely that an instantaneous complex mathematical process saw Leon position himself in exactly the right place at the right time) and Nolan finished it off - then chicken danced away.
To Shola's credit he absolutely owned Titus Shambles in the air all afternoon. By this point I was wondering how many we would have been leading by if our key players had been available.
Malbranque hacked at Barton and although we were awarded a free kick Malbranque escaped a booking presumably because it was Joey Barton. If Barton had tackled like that Webb would probably have ripped his own nipple off in haste trying to get the card out of his top pocket.
We had several chances to wrap the game up - Jonas curled one over, Leon shot wide with one when Titus again had no idea where the ball was and then Jose inexplicably opted to shoot when a square ball would have offered Leon Best an open goal and the match winner. The only flaw in a magnificent performance from the machine known as Jose Enrique.
Bardsley then flew into a terrible tackle on (you guessed it) Joey Barton. Webb didn't bother with the card opting instead to promote the open season that their players were allowed on Joey. Again, if Joey had made the same tackle on Bardsley it would have been a straight red.
They nabbed an undeserved late, late equaliser. Webb the homer gifted them an astonishing FIVE minutes of stoppage time and 4 minutes into that time the ball bounced off the terrible Gyan (a poor manâ€™s Oba Martins) who knew nothing about it and they were level.
The class of the locals showed itself - the annual derby pitch invasion took place and one of them pushed Steve Harper to the floor. The FA wonâ€™t take any action though as this happens all of the time at that place. And to think they wanted to use it as a World Cup venue *shudder*.
Steve Bruce ran up and down the touchline celebrating as if he had won the Champions League or an all you can eat annual pass for one of the town's thousands of kebab shops.
What a shame we can't play them every week.
Faustino Asprilla was in the Newcastle end sporting a black and white scarf - the man is a Legend. We should have brought him on for a cameo - he could also have tortured Shambles.
If the owner opened his wallet this team could become a top 8 side.
MOTM - Fab Coloccini, immense. (With honourable mentions to Jose Enrique and Joey Barton)
Altogether now: CHEER UP STEVIE BRUCE.....
What song do you think would be appropriate?
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