Sunderland's late attempt to hijack Middlesbrough's £5million swoop for Norwich City star Jonny Howson looks set to fail.
New Black Cats boss Simon Grayson is keen to make quick inroads in the transfer market and is keen on the Canaries playmaker.
However, Boro remain in pole position after Garry Monk focused his sights on Howson, having had him scouted while Leeds United manager.
The 29-year-old has rejected a new contract at Norwich, and is believed to want to return north. He has spent the last five years in East Anglia after starting his career at Leeds.
Howson played under Grayson at Elland Road and made more than 200 appearances for Leeds.
Sunderland are playing catch-up in the transfer market, however, after the delay in appointing Grayson as David Moyes' successor, and Boro are on the verge of completing a deal for Howson.
The midfielder had also been linked with a return to Leeds, but his old club baulked at the price tag and wages.