Sheffield United won this afternoon's match at the Stadium of Light not just because they were better but, quite simply, because they also wanted it more.
Goals either side of half-time from debutant Clayton Donaldon saw Chris Wilder's side remain fourth in the Championship table and delivered their first away win of the season to boot.
It was a thoroughly deserved victory and, when the visitors' coaching staff sit down the analyse the game, possibly the only criticism they will be able to level is that the contest stayed alive as long as it did.
Sunderland, however, were woeful. Confidence is understandably brittle after being relegated from the Premier League last term. But, on this evidence, it would take a brave man to bet even a penny on them making an immediate return to the top-flight. Jack Rodwell's header set up an anxious finale but it was too little, too late.
Donaldson's United career, not to mention his new club's afternoon, could not have got off to a better start.
Although questions will be asked of how Robbin Ruiter, the Sunderland goalkeeper, was beaten so easily at his near post, the former Birmingham City centre-forward gambled and won. Simon Grayson's men appeared to lack even a tenth of the self-belief which persuaded Donaldson to try his luck from the edge of the box. Their performance before the break was desperately poor.
Much of that, however, could be attributed to the tenacity with which United went about their work. Time time again, particularly before the break, they wrestled back possession with well-timed tackles and demonstrated a really dogged streak.
Sunderland, by contrast, were fractious, insipid and, on occasion, seemingly devoid of intelligence. Not so Wilder's charges who put the result beyond doubt when substitute David Brooks sent Donaldson darting through for his second.
Given United's encouraging start to the season and activity on transfer deadline day, Grayson will have had no problems predicting Wilder's selections. With Caolan Lavery nursing a fractured eye socket and Leon Clarke serving the final game of a three match ban, new signing Donaldson made his full debut against opponents who surprisingly recalled former Everton midfielder Rodwell.
Despite being forewarned, Sunderland were most definitely not forearmed. Kieron Freeman, after helping Jamal Blackman clear a dangerous George Honeyman set-piece, shot over during the opening exchanges. Jack O'Connell nearly got a touch at the far post following a powerful run by Chris Basham. But it was Donaldson who broke the deadlock in the 21st minute with a low shot from 20 yards.
Sunderland's attacking play was cohesive enough although it was a different story at the back. Enda Stevens was inches away from heading home a Mark Duffy centre after being left unmarked at the far post and, as the home supporters began to voice their displeasure, Ruiter was forced to palm Donaldson's 30th minute attempt over the crossbar.
A superb crossfield pass from Paul Coutts set in motion the chain of events which, but for John O'Shea's intervention, would have seen Duffy extend United's advantage. Instead, that honour fell to Donaldson, who swept the ball home past the advancing Ruiter after combining well with Brooks.
Rodwell pulled one back in added time, heading home Callum McManaman's free-kick but United were worthy winners.
Sunderland: Ruiter, Williams, Rodwell, Vaughan (McManaman 60), Grabban, Galloway, Ndong, Browning, Kone (O'Shea 46), Honeyman (Gooch 75), Wilson. Not used: Steele, Jones, McManaman, Matthews, Gibson, Gooch.
Sheffield United: Blackman, O'Connell, Wright, Basham, Stevens, Freeman, Coutts, Fleck, Duffy (Lundstram 67),
Donaldson (Evans 80), Sharp (Brooks 67). Not used: Eastwood, Baldock, Lundstram, Carter-Vickers, Lafferty.
Referee: Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire).