David Moyes said "three individual mistakes" cost Sunderland dearly as they slumped to a 3-1 home defeat to Stoke City.
The Black Cats slipped a place to second bottom following Hull City's 3-1 win over Bournemouth.
Sunderland produced a woeful first-half performance, going three down inside the opening 34 minutes.
The one and only consolation for the Black Cats was they still remain just a point from safety after Crystal Palace lost 3-0 at West Ham.
Sunderland were up against from Marko Arnoutovic's double and when Peter Crouch's header made it three, it seemed a case of 'how many' though it got no worse.
Arnautovic finished with his right foot after Vito Mannone had saved his initial shot and his second came after one-twos with Xherdan Shaqiri and Crouch, while the keeper got nowhere Charlie Adam's high, hanging cross which Crouch headed in 12 minutes from half-time.
"It was down to three individual, poor mistakes," said Moyes. "It never allowed us to get going.
"We gave the ball away [for the first], we got done by a double one-two [for the second] and had chance to stop it and [the third] we should have punched it or caught it."
Jermain Defoe's 12th goal of the season five minutes before the interval gave the hosts brief hope.
They were better in the second half but Lee Grant saved from Fabio Borini, Jack Rodwell squandered a glorious opening and Jason Denayer headed over.
"When you go three down it takes a big set of you-know-whats to keep taking the ball and trying to play," said Moyes.
"I have to say the lads stuck at it. Seb Larsson started it by winning a few tackles and pressing, people saw that he was at it and felt the team followed Seb a little bit.
"We got a goal back, if we'd have got a second then maybe who knows?
"We made one or two chances in the second half which could have done that but the damage was done by poor, poor mistakes."
Stoke boss Mark Hughes was thrilled with his side's display, especially Artauvic's second goal which came after two one-twos, with Shaqiri and Crouch.
The manager said he had demanded a response from his "honest group" after a home FA Cup exit last weekend - and he got it.
"It didn't surprise me," he said. "It's exactly what I expected to happen.
"That first 30-odd minutes was the best we've played away from home for a number of seasons."