Sunderland might win the battles, but Newcastle continue to win the war, as Michael Lintorn explains...
"Newcastle have ranked higher in four straight seasons. Despite ending up in the bottom six in two of the past three years, they have still been able to find something to celebrate in outperforming Sunderland to remain the north east’s leading force."
Whenever Newcastle and Sunderland collide, there is a particular trend that receives all the attention, which is the fact that the Magpies have somehow conspired to lose six successive meetings with their perpetually-relegation-battling neighbours.
To put the insanity of that sequence into context, the Black Cats have won just 19 other Premier League games in that entire three-year period, so a massive 24% of their top-flight victories have been achieved against their nearest and not quite dearest.
It is 3.7511/4 that the streak is stretched to seven at St James' Park on Sunday in the most high-profile clash of the lot and, if it happens, it has the potential to be a pivotal result in the campaign, lifting the 17th-placed Wearsiders four points clear of their second-bottom rivals.
However, what attracts far less publicity than Sunderland's head-to-head dominance is that there is a similar one-sidedness to recent fights to finish higher in the Premier League table, only this is a contest that Newcastle consistently prevail in.
The Magpies have ranked higher in four straight seasons. Despite ending up in the bottom six in two of the past three years, they have still been able to find something to celebrate in outperforming their Tyne-Wear foes to remain the north east's leading force.
What makes this pattern particularly powerful is that - like Sunderland's habit of avoiding the drop no matter how terrible a position they bury themselves into - it always happens regardless of logic dictating that there is no reason why it should.
In 2012/13, they were behind with two games left and managed to trade places. Last term, they went into the final day two points adrift, uncertain of survival and on a run of earning a single point from their previous ten encounters, yet defied form to beat West Ham 2-0 and usurp their enemies.
If the magic holds out for one more campaign, it will probably be the difference between staying up and going down because Swansea in 16th are eight points clear of Sunderland and nine ahead of Newcastle, so relegation looks very much like a three-from-four scenario.
Rafael Benitez's men have been backed as high as 2.01/1 to be above the Mackems at the end of May 15. Then again, if you have faith in both the head-to-head and end-of-season trends persevering, you may prefer to back Sunderland at 3.7511/4 on Sunday now and then back the Toon Army at even bigger odds in the aftermath!