Sunderland manager Roy Keane believes the battle to avoid relegation will go right to the wire following Sunday's 1-0 defeat to Everton.
The Black Cats could have moved five points clear of the drop zone with a victory over the Toffees, but in the end remained in 16th place in a congested bottom third of the Premier League table.
However despite predicting a nip-and-tuck relegation dogfight, Keane is confident the Wearsiders have the quality and character to avoid the drop.
He said: "I think there's five, six, seven teams down there fighting and we've said all along it might go to the last week or two.
"Our run-in is as difficult as anyone's which is why it's been disappointing this last week (following a goalless draw with rock-bottom Derby).
"We thought we had the opportunity to get three points at Derby and maybe a draw today.
"Yes, the players are down and disappointed. The day they are not after a defeat will be a very sad day for the club.
"But we'll lick our wounds and get ready for another tough game (against Chelsea next weekend).
"You have to keep believing, sometimes it's hard when you lose, but the spirit among the players is the least of my worries."
Meanwhile, Keane defended Phil Bardsley, who was booked for an ugly second-half tackle high on the leg of Steven Pienaar.
"Bards is not that kind of lad, but he is a tenacious full-back," he claimed.
"The referee had a good view of it and a yellow card was probably a fair punishment."