On the 21st October Sunderland and Newcastle drew 1-1 at the Stadium of light, with a late Demba Ba own goal cancelling out Yohan Cabaye's early strike. Neither side had been particularly impressive in the match, but both were expected to pick up their form in the weeks afterwards, and neither was presumed likely to be involved in any kind of relegation scrap this season.
Since that match however, the two sides have played 12 games, and picked up only nine points between them. Each have only won one of those games, with Newcastle fortunate to beat West Brom 2-1 at home, and Sunderland winning 3-1 at ten-man Fulham.
Newcastle are in drastically bad form, losing their last four games. Worse news for each side is that they have not been playing the league's big guns in that spell, with Newcastle losing to West Ham and Swansea at home, and Southampton and Stoke away recently, and Sunderland picking up only one point from home games against Aston Villa, QPR and West Brom.
For Newcastle, the problems could be set to continue, with the influential Cabaye injured until the New Year at least, Hatem Ben Arfa also injured, and Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse seemingly no closer to learning how to score in the same match.
Pardew has also struggled to find a formation that best utilises his star players even when they are all fit. At Sunderland, their problem is a simpler one, they cannot score goals consistently, with only 12 all season.
Newcastle are currently 14th and Sunderland 16th, but both could be further down the table by the New Year. Newcastle play Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal in December.
Sunderland have it even harder, facing Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and Spurs over the festive period. Both have the players to get points from any game they play in, but the way they are performing at the moment, you fear for each side whoever they play.
By the time their Tyne-Wear derby rolls around again in April, could it be a relegation six-pointer?
image: © mickyb59