David Moyes bemoaned Sunderland's "nightmare start" as they went down to defeat in the basement battle at Stoke City.
The Black Cats find themselves four points adrift of safety after conceding two first-half goals to in-form midfielder Joe Allen.
The Wales star, who shook off a hamstring injury to be fit for the basement battle, headed in from close range in the eighth minute and then scored the second with his left foot from the edge of the box in stoppage time.
It was the first time (and second) Stoke had scored in the opening 45 minutes in the Premier League this season and it gave Sunderland a mountain they could not climb.
Jermain Defoe, surprise, surprise, had Sunderland's best chances, being blocked by Ryan Shawcross for his first and went just over with his foot, while the ball would not fall for him in the second period after a good move between Duncan Watmore and sub Billy Jones.
The only real save home keeper Lee Grant had to make was a 79th-minute Wahbi Khazri free-kick, but other than that, Sunderland could make no impression, despite the great support from the away end.
"It was a nightmare start," said Moyes. "I don't think we played as badly as the 2-0 first-half scoreline suggested.
"I thought we played better in the first half than the second.
"But we conceded two terrible goals. I'd love to say the referee was partly at fault for the first but having watched it again, we had opportunities to get it away.
"That was our own doing and the second was from a set-piece. We won the header but we weren't particularly well organised at the edge of the box and it goes through a set of legs and we can't kick it off the line.
"We have ourselves to blame - if we'd got ourselves to half-time at 1-0 I believe we'd been in the game enough to give ourselves a chance in the second half."
Moyes saw encouragement in the first-half performance at the bet365 Stadium and admits they need to try to get a result when they go to West Ham for another bottom-of-the-table clash next Saturday.
"We've got to keep going and show we can get a result," said the Scot, whose injury problems rose again when Patrick van Aanholt came off in the first half.
"If we can get a win, this club has been in this position before, it's not something it's not used to."