Sunderland made a mockery of their recent revival, finishing 2016 with an embarrassingly error-strewn display in a 4-1 defeat at Burnley on Saturday.
Goalkeeper Vito Mannone, recalled to the first team because injury will keep the outstanding Jordan Pickford out for at least six weeks, was poor and centre-back Papy Djilobodji had a nightmare as an Andre Gray hat trick demolished David Moyes' side.
Burnley fully deserved the win that raises serious doubts about Sunderland's chances of avoiding further humiliation at home to Liverpool on Monday, let alone the prospects of pulling off yet another great escape from relegation.
Moyes' woes were worsened as two key players -- defender Lamine Kone and attacker Victor Anichebe -- suffered first-half injuries to add to his alarming casualty list.
If owner Ellis Short cannot acknowledge the need to part with funds for signings in the transfer window -- despite his apparent wish to sell the club -- he must realise Sunderland are heading for Championship football next season.
A woeful team display was mitigated only by the run of Adnan Januzaj that set up Jermain Defoe for a consolation goal. There were no other positives in a shameful all-round performance.
Mannone and Djilobodji were especially culpable but there was little to applaud from teammates whose efforts lacked character, cohesion and desire.
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- Moyes cannot be blamed for Sunderland's ever-rising injury list but questions must be raised about the level of motivation he inspired for a match of such importance in the battle for survival.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Vito Mannone, 5 -- Reckless charges cost one goal and nearly another. Made one good save, and several simple ones, but this was not a confident return to first team duty.
DF Billy Jones, 4 -- Part of a combined show of defensive ineptitude, though the booking that keeps him out of Monday's tough game against Liverpool seemed harsh.
DF Lamine Kone, 5 -- Looked the pick of a porous defence until he was forced off early with an injury after he made an important block.
DF Papy Djilobodji, 3 -- After recent solid displays, this was his worst afternoon in Sunderland colours, as he was at fault in at least two of the Burnley moves that led to goals.
DF, John O'Shea, 4 -- An uncharacteristically sloppy afternoon just when Sunderland needed a captain's performance.
DF Patrick van Aanholt, 5 -- Tried to get the team moving forward but misplaced too many passes.
MF Sebastian Larsson, 5 -- Failed to make an impact in midfield and conceded the fourth goal with a crass penalty-box barge on Scott Arfield.
MF Adnan Januzaj, 6 -- Marginally livelier than his teammates and must be credited for his long run, sustained in the face of at least two fouls and culminating in a perfect pass for Defoe's goal.
MF Fabio Borini, 5 -- Visible intermittently but to little effect.
MF Victor Anichebe, 5 -- Unlucky for him, even more so for Sunderland, that he picked up a first-half injury.
FW Jermain Defoe, 5 -- Quiet as a dormouse, mainly the result of non-existent service, until his goal from Janujaz's excellent surge.
MF, Didier Ndong, 5 -- Sunderland's record signing continues to be a major disappointment for Moyes, contributing only fleetingly after replacing the injured Kone.
MF, Steven Pienaar, 5 -- Unfortunate that a slip started the move that led to Gray's third goal, but failed to stamp any presence on midfield.
DF, Donald Love, N/R -- Hardly looked solid after sent on for the out-of-sorts O'Shea.