The 30-year-old Geordie came off the bench to snatch a 1-1 draw with his injury time strike just when it looked as though the 10-man visitors were about to end their 12-year wait for a win on Tyneside.
It was Ameobi’s seventh goal against the Black Cats, but arguably his most important as it secured a point which maintained the Magpies in sixth place in the Premier League table, left them hot on the heels of managerless Chelsea in fifth and five points clear of Liverpool, who have a game in hand.
The striker said: “They [Chelsea] are having a tough time at the moment and every point we can pick up…
“Liverpool lost on Saturday, so it was an incentive to get a result for us to try to put a gap between us and them.
“It’s a realistic target for us now, trying to get the European spot, and the fans can rest assured we are going to do everything we can to try to achieve that.”
Ameobi is a veteran of Newcastle’s last Champions League campaign and their more recent European exploits, although the club has not tasted continental action since the 2006-07 season.
Qualification this time around would represent a remarkable achievement, and significantly more than that on which they set their sights at the beginning of the campaign.
What was a requirement, however, before a ball was kicked, was to get the better of their local rivals, and a return of four points from their two encounters with Sunderland and a 10-point advantage heading into the final 11 games of the season are cause for celebration, although there is still plenty of work to be done.
There might have been a good deal more to do had it not been for Ameobi’s last-gasp intervention on Sunday after Sunderland, who had frozen on their last two trips to Tyneside, turned up determined not to do the same again.
The visitors dictated the pace of the first half and they took the lead when Nicklas Bendtner converted a 24th-minute penalty, and had it not been for fine saves from keeper Tim Krul either side of half-time, the Black Cats could have built a commanding lead.
However, the Magpies, who had seen Demba Ba hit the bar with a first-half header, introduced Frenchman Hatem Ben Arfa at the break, and he helped to change the whole complexion of the game.
The home side were already on top when Stephane Sessegnon swung an arm in frustration at Cheick Tiote and was sent off, but it was not until the 82nd minute that their big chance arrived.
Substitute Fraizer Campbell’s trip on Ameobi gave Ba the opportunity to level from the spot, but his attempt was well-saved by keeper Simon Mignolet as he rekindled memories of Thomas Sorensen’s heroics against Alan Shearer in the club’s last win on enemy territory.
But the Belgium international was finally beaten at the death when Ameobi stabbed home for his seventh derby goal, leaving him only behind the legendary Jackie Milburn in the all-time list.
He said: “I know I shouldn’t really be mentioned in the same breath as Jackie Milburn, but it’s just fantastic for me and for the team, and for the fans also.
“To score against them on a consistent basis is a dream. It’s the game you look forward to all season, and it was great to come off the bench and get a goal.
“It’s just awesome. Every single time when you score a goal as a striker, it’s always a nice feeling, but to do it against your fiercest rivals when the game is really on the line is just magnificent.
“In front of the Gallowgate End again, it’s just a dream for a supporter of Newcastle. To score like that and rescue a point is fantastic.”
If Ameobi claimed the headlines, manager Alan Pardew was equally grateful for the pace and invention injected by Ben Arfa, who has grown increasingly frustrated at his recent lack of opportunities.
Pardew said: “Some of the things he did today just take your breath away. No wonder our fans love him to bits.
“I have got to find a way of getting him in the team and him contributing to he team in the way he did today.”