David Moyes insists there could be no questions asked of his side's effort, commitment or workrate - but admits they lacked a touch of quality in the defeat to Manchester City.
Relegation-threatened Sunderland came storming out of the blocks at the Stadium of Light against Pep Guardiola's City side.
Jermain Defoe hit the post from distance, Fabio Borini sending a header wide from the rebound while Billy Jones twice went close from corners in an impressive first-half display.
But as is so often the case with this Sunderland side, they were unable to get to half-time without conceding a goal in the latter stages of the first half.
Sergio Aguero nipping in ahead of Lamine Kone to put City 1-0 up with their first effort on target three minutes before the break.
The impressive Leroy Sane doubled their lead just before the hour mark and it was one one-way traffic from then on as City coasted to a comfortable 2-0 win.
Moyes was pleased with the performance of his players, in the first half especially, against an in-form City side who haven't yet given up their title ambitions.
Victory saw City climb to third, now eight points off leaders and title-favourites Chelsea with Sunderland now six points from safety after a bruising weekend of results.
Moyes was determined to take the positives from the latest defeat though ahead of another fortnight break before Burnley head to the Stadium of Light on March 18.
"I thought the boys played and worked really hard to get something out of the game," reflected Moyes.
"The commitment and game plan, we tried to stop Man City playing which is very difficult because they are a top team.
"Anyone who was at the City v Monaco game recently would vouch for that.
"Our players gave everything they could but when we got the ball back which we did quite a bit, we at times lacked the quality to make opportunities or build the play."
When asked how much of a concern that lack of quality is, Moyes added: "I know that we do have bits of quality.
"We have players to come back which might help us as well.
"Manchester City keep you under that much pressure that when you do get it you have to be brave enough to play.
"I thought we tried at times but there was just three or four opportunities first half when we could have done better, we turned the ball over too quickly.
"They didn't half work though and made it as difficult as they could for Manchester City for long parts of the game, right to the end they made it as difficult as they could."