You know you’re in trouble when Lamine Kone is thrown up front in a desperate bid to salvage anything from a home game with Bristol City.
And Sunderland and manager Simon Grayson are in big trouble.
The Championship league table looks more depressing with every passing opportunity missed to get only the second league win of the season.
Bristol City the latest team to leave Wearside with three points, Lee Johnson’s well organised side are flying high and deservedly won the game.
Equally, Sunderland deserve to be exactly where they are.
Pressure is mounting on the players and the manager. Grayson taking the brunt of fan fury on social media. A new low reached every match.
As the players trudged off following another woeful home display, fans inside the Stadium of Light let them have it with both barrels, boos and an all too familiar chant of ‘You’re not fit to wear the shirt’.
The fans had stayed with the side for much of the game, buoyed by Lewis Grabban’s equaliser just before half-time. There was even a glimmer of confidence this could be the first home win in almost a year.
Yet, inexplicably the second half performance was pathetic, sparking outbursts from fed-up, frustrated and angry fans.
The odd shout from some supporters in front of the press box of ‘Grayson out’ as the almost inevitable Bristol winner hit the back of Jason Steele’s net.
Most managers in charge of a club the size and stature of Sunderland would consider themselves fortunate to still be in a job after a desperate run of one win in 14 league games.
This squad is underperforming. Grayson made a point of pointing the finger at his players post-match.
The manager must take his share of the blame ahead of Tuesday’s home game that feels very much like Bolton or bust for Sunderland and Grayson.
The season is not in its infancy, 14 games have gone, Sunderland are in a relegation battle.
Things can change quickly on the back of back-to-back victories but there has been little evidence this season that this team is capable of stringing a winning run together.
Sunderland went into the game on the back of three draws but it was a case of points dropped not gained against QPR and Brentford.
In the build-up, Grayson had spoken of the side taking small steps forwards. Defeat to Bristol City felt like a huge step back.
Having gained the momentum through Grabban’s sixth of the season, Sunderland fell apart after the break. No ideas. No inspiration. No shape. No obvious tactics.
The switch to 4-4-2 only resulted in Sunderland surrendering possession and Lee Johnson’s side capitalised.
More than a quarter of the campaign has gone and you’d struggle to pinpoint the identity, style and pattern of play Grayson is striving for.
Sunderland have two days to conjure a reaction but on current form - especially at home - you wouldn’t bet against them ending Tuesday bottom of the Championship pile.