AT LEAST they had the decency to go and applaud the 2,500 travelling supporters in the away end afterwards.
But after a game which was one of the most painful to watch in Sunderland’s recent history, that was the only modicum of comfort.
It was one of the few occasions all afternoon when Sunderland’s red-faced players showed some character.
Shameful, pathetic, feeble, comical. You can take your pick of the adjectives after a scoreline more befitting of a five-a-side game.
A previously solid - if unspectacular - Sunderland had been described as hard-to-beat, defensively resilient, well-drilled during the opening skirmishes of the season.
But in a game which promised to be tight and chess-like, Gus Poyet’s side showed a nightmarish other side to their make-up.
It will prompt plenty of question marks from supporters this week and rightly so.
It was the sort of collapse which will haunt Sunderland for months to come. Any confidence or goodwill gained this season has immediately been erased.
It wasn’t necessarily the slapstick defending which left even Southampton fans gob-smacked after Sunderland began their Laurel and Hardy-esque performance with a comical own goal from Santiago Vergini.
It was the manner of how Sunderland threw in the towel during the second half which was particularly galling.
When the Black Cats should have accepted defeat and shut-up shop, they surrendered and left gaping holes for Southampton to continually exploit.
At the hour mark, the game had the potential to be a cricket score, and so it proved. The home fans chanted “we want eight” and they got them.
Southampton’s widemen and full-backs carved Sunderland open with frightening ease, as they had done regularly in the first half too.
Graziano Pelle could have had a double hat-trick. Dusan Tadic seemed to have a hand in every goal.
Yes, the game would undoubtedly have had a different complexion if referee Andre Marriner had awarded Sunderland a stonewall first half penalty, plus dismissed Fraser Forster in the bargain.
At 2-1, against 10 men, Sunderland would have been right back in it, regardless of their dire defensive work.
There was perhaps an argument that Steven Fletcher had overran the ball, but it was still an attrocious piece of bungling by Marriner.
It was no excuse for what followed though.
Every team receives bad refereeing decisions. It shouldn’t prompt footballing suicide.
Both Poyet and his players will have some soul-searching to do this week.
They need to make amends - and then some - when Arsenal visit the Stadium of Light next Saturday.
For all the latest news, gossip and match coverage straight to your mobile and tablet, download the Football Echo now from here: