Mitrovic vs Defoe: Strikers could define the Premier League survival battle

Both men scored in today's 1-1 draw at St James Park

Aleksandar Mitrovic, Newcastle, derby

Mitrovic celebrates (Picture by: Owen Humphreys / PA Wire/Press Association Images)

Aleksandar Mitrovic's late header gave Newcastle a lifeline as the Magpies salvaged a 1-1 draw at home to relegation rivals Sunderland in the Tyne-Wear derby.

The Serbian made it to the back post to divert Georginio Wijnaldum's cross into the back of the Black Cats' net with seven minutes of regular time to play, sparking wild celebrations.

The home side, who remain second from bottom in the Barclays Premier League table and one point behind Sunderland, trailed 1-0 at half-time.

Jermain Defoe had volleyed Sunderland 1-0 up just before the break after the ball from Newacstle keeper Rob Elliot's save dropped out of the sky and into his territory.

A tale of two strikers

A regular goal-getter is often a vital commodity in the battle to beat the drop and that was what had some tipping Sunderland to edge the survival conflict.

Defoe is a forward who knows what it takes to find the net at Premier League, even at the veteran phase of his career and has hit double-figures this season.

Sunderland's Jermain Defoe (second right) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game with team-mates during the Barclays Premier League match at St James' Park, Newcastle. Picture by: Owen Humphreys / PA Wire/Press Association Images

Today's goal was his 12th of a campaign which also saw him notch a vital hat-trick in a 4-2 win over Swansea and a brace against Aston Villa in consecutive early January games as Sunderland won back-to-back games for only a second time in 2015-16.

On the other hand, a reliable forward has been one of many problems for Newcastle this season. Their top goalscorer for the season is midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, who has hit nine, even if he was mostly anonymous today aside from his assist.

Joint-second in the scoring charts are Ayoze Perez and Mitrovic, whose goal today puts both players on six for the season.

That is too low a figure from the forwards and Papiss Cisse, who returned today to come off the bench today has also been a miss through injury.

Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez (left) stops Aleksandar Mitrovic (right) from returning to the pitch after suffering a head injury during the Barclays Premier League match at St James' Park, Newcastle. Picture by: Owen Humphreys / PA Wire/Press Association Images

Mitrovic, though, needs to go on a goalscoring run for Newcastle's sake. He does miss his fair share of chances, but the encouraging thing for the 21-year-old is that he does appear to get into the right positions, only for a lack of composure to thwart him.

He also has "passion" as seen when he motioned for the St James Park faithful to make some real noise and his ill-advised attempt to talk Rafa Benitez and the Newacstle medics into letting him back on the field in the closing stages after he suffered a blow to the head. 

But he, Perez and Cisse will need to start making the most of any chances that fall their way to match the threat Sunderland have in Defoe, as fellow relegation battlers Norwich are also having problems in the goalscoring department given that no player has managed more than five goals for the Canaries this season.

For Newcastle though, oh for a No 9 in the Alan Shearer mould! And Mitrovic and co need to channel some of that potency in the remaining fixtures.