But it hardly mattered against opponents lacking shape, coherence but above all, quality.
Two goals in the 13th and 45th minute by Cristhian Stuani gave Boro the cushion they needed to resist a spirited fightback which saw Patrick Van Aanholt reduce the deficit.
Sunderland will argue they deserved a share of the derby spoils and on chances created, they probably did but they had left themselves too much to do.
When Stuani fired Boro into that early lead, it was from the visitors’ first attack of the game.
They’d barely had a kick in the opening minutes as Sunderland began breezily.
With Adnan Januzaj having the beating of George Friend and fellow youngsters Duncan Watmore and Lynden Gooch running at their opponents, the home fans were briefly encouraged.