Any fresh optimism that the trio of deadline day signings had generated quickly evaporated in the space of yet another demoralising and inept home display by Sunderland.
Sunderland signed Marc Wilson, Jonny Williams and Callum McManaman before the window closed but crucially failed to land another striker.
Sheffield United did. And Clayton Donaldson bagged a brace on his debut at the Stadium of Light to send the Black Cats deeper into the mire.
Following the 3-0 defeat at Barnsley, it had been hoped that was the low point. Sunderland sank deeper still on Saturday, the worst performance of the season.
And there was nothing from the performance to suggest the dire home form will turn around anytime soon. Nottingham Forest are the visitors on Tuesday.
The issue facing Simon Grayson is that the Black Cats boss has problems all over the pitch with confidence levels low and mistakes heightened when playing at home in front of a support increasingly fed-up after years of struggle.
Robbin Ruiter was superb during his trial period and against Carlisle United in the league cup but he looked nervous again on Saturday, was partly at fault for the opener and his distribution was poor.
Does Grayson stick or twist again and recall Jason Steele to the starting line-up?
In defence, Brendan Galloway was again exposed down the left flank, new signing Wilson was rusty and looked uncomfortable throughout. Far too soon to judge him, though.
Playing a back three didn't work, does Grayson revert to a back four against Forest? Lamine Kone may miss out with a groin injury, which would likely leave Wilson and Tyias Browning.
George Honeyman is best through the middle and certainly not at right wing-back where he was playing most of Saturday, while Jack Rodwell produced another lacklustre display.
Didier Ndong wasn't his usual self following the international break, while Sunderland lacked any width until the introduction of Callum McManaman from the bench.
Lewis Grabban cut a frustrated figure up front, while James Vaughan continues to endure a torrid time in front of goal.
The closest he came was an acrobatic effort which went wide from 12-yards. Sunderland are leaking soft goals and not scoring enough at the other end. Or even creating chances.
Just one effort on target and that was Rodwell's consolation header in the 94th minute.
Fans have had enough. They haven't seen a home win since December.
There were chants against the players, the owner, some groans against Grayson, while Rodwell was subjected to boos.
Booing your own players won't help anyone but Rodwell faced the brunt of the frustration.
After Donaldson scored his second, stewards were called into action in the South Stand after emotions spilled over amongst the home support.
This was not how it was supposed to be six games into the new campaign. Yet here we are.
Hopes of a promotion or play-off push dampened to say the least, with concerned fans looking over their shoulders at the other end of the table instead.
There were some mitigating factors; Grayson had little time to work with his whole squad following international duty and injuries affected the team and formation but the system selected didn't work with those players.
Lee Cattermole missed out with a groin injury, Aiden McGeady a hamstring injury while Bryan Oviedo had only recently returned from travelling half way round the world.
Lamine Kone - skipper for the day - was subbed at half-time with a groin concern, while Grayson awaits the return of Duncan Watmore from injury in the coming weeks.
Having some of those players back will give Sunderland added quality, experience, width and pace.
Callum McManaman wasn't fit enough to last the full 90 minutes but he should start the game on Tuesday rather than come on as a second half sub. By then the damage was done.
But let's be quite clear, despite only spending £1.25million on 10 new signings, including loan players, this Sunderland squad should still be doing far better than it currently is.
If Sunderland and their long-suffering support didn't know it before, then the past three games have been a huge reality check for what life is like in the Championship.
Sheffield United don't possess more quality than Sunderland but they worked harder and showed a better attitude. Those two factors should be a given.
Grayson was keen to defend his players and stress they do care.
A huge improvement is needed for the visit of Forest. Surely, it can't get much worse?