So what is the least dangerous time in a game to go ahead? I ask the question innocently enough, as a Sunderland supporter whose team has led four times so far in the Premier League, not yet gone behind and not yet recorded a win.
One theory goes that if you score really early, especially as an away side or when playing one of the big four/five/six, you are asking for trouble.
But what if you leave it until just before half time, ensuring the opposition will get a rollicking in the dressing room and return to the fray determined to replace the manager's scowl with a smile? Or for as long as 75 or 80 minutes, leaving plenty of time for a spirited fightback that may not stop at an equaliser?
This season and last, it has been tempting to think Sunderland have all options covered, suckers for an eventual counter-punch whenever we score, incapable of adding to a lead or protecting it.
This weakness was not brought to the club by Martin O'Neill. It was well established in the ultimately failed regime of Steve Bruce. But it was again on display at West Ham on Saturday as the team led from the ninth minute before succumbing to pressure three minutes into stoppage time. I hate to think what might have happened had the goal come five minutes earlier.
Pity Steven Fletcher, who has performed his own duties to perfection. He can hardly have been unaware of the jibes that he was not worth his reputed £12 million fee. Good for him, then, that in a team that has not won a game, he sits proudly with the Premier goalscoring pacesetters.
Each of his four goals has been scored in the first half, two at Swansea and one at home to Liverpool before he put Sunderland ahead at the Boleyn. And each time, the opposition has managed to come back.
It would be ridiculous to base the season's prospects on this. You can no more reasonably write off top ten aspirations on the basis of four drawn games, three of them away, than you can fairly call a Sunderland manager a failure because his team loses at home to Newcastle United in the second game of the season, especially if he has just taken the club to precisely that top ten finish.
Yet football fans are not always fair and Steve Bruce was rashly condemned by a number of supporters after defeat in the Wear-Tyne derby in August last year. The criticism grew louder - and more deserved - as poor results continued.
I am not about to defend Bruce or his misplaced sense of victimhood. His first four games last season produced two draws and two defeats, plus a meek exit from the League Cup at Brighton and Hove Albion. He was given ample opportunity to turn things around before a home defeat to Wigan finally did for him.
O'Neill picked up the pieces of a demoralised, disjointed squad and instilled sufficient belief in its members to steer Sunderland out of danger. The season fell away later but he had done the essential part of his job, sparing us yet another relegation dogfight.
He has been unlucky with injuries so far, though arguably no more than Bruce. Our two star performers of last season, James McClean and Stephane Sessegnon, have hardly sparkled to date.
Perhaps the most worrying aspect of the current debate is the suggestion that the charmless tactic of soaking up lots of pressure even against routine opponents, in the hope of at least not losing, is likely to be commonplace as the season wears on.
This would not be how most supporters interpreted a pre-season aside, as reported from an informal function, that we would be playing a more attractive brand of football than was seen for the dreary last third of the 2011-2012 season.
O'Neill has every right to insist on caution when the alternative is a brighter approach that simply allows teams with bigger budgets and better players to walk all over us. But he does need to mitigate that prudence with more ambition when games are clearly winnable.
Just such a match is looming. After Tuesday's Capital One Cup distraction at MK Dons, that Sunderland v Wigan fixture is back and I fancy Bruce will be taking a keen interest in the outcome.
O'Neill's future, of course, does not depend on it. The whispered early exasperation, perhaps most audible on the lips of long-in-the-tooth supporters driven by serial disappointment, is wildly premature and unjustified. But if most of us remain overwhelmingly behind him, we also pray that the football becomes a little prettier.