Fuming Chris Coleman hit out at referee Simon Hooper for costing Sunderland dear in the 3-1 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday - with survival hopes looking increasingly bleak.
Sunderland were trailing 2-1 when Owls midfielder Barry Bannan, on a yellow card, fouled Lynden Gooch inside the area for what looked like a clear penalty.
The game was evenly poised and it proved a defining moment.
Hooper’s decision left Coleman fuming as Jos Luhukay’s side went on to seal victory.
Defeat left Sunderland teetering on the brink of League One football, five points adrift with just six Championship games left.
Coleman couldn’t fault his side’s level of performance - but he hit out at the officials.
Coleman said: "Performance wise, there isn’t much more I could have asked of them. They did more than enough to come away with a result.
"I have sat here many times and not been able to say that because we hadn’t performed but I couldn’t say that today.
"You can fault the referee, though and I never blame referees for results, I don’t.
"But I thought he was short today.
"The penalty incident was a defining moment; we get a penalty, they go to ten men, and we end up with nothing. That was hugely disappointing.
"I can’t understand why he didn’t make the decision.
"The linesman on that side had a clear view, no bodies in between, the referee had a good view. Everybody in the stadium saw that and would have thought the same thing, the Sheffield
Wednesday fans and bench.
"The two people who didn’t, two people we needed to see it and call it right, didn’t. I thought that was a huge moment.
"Whether the advantage could have swung to us, we didn’t get that. I was disappointed with that but not with the overall performance.
"It was much more like it. I was disappointed with two of the goals we gave away, before they got possession of the ball we had opportunities to clear the danger and we didn’t.
"Then we were punished. Overall, it would be difficult to say to the players that is not it, because that was much more like it, the last two performances.
"If you look at the stats over the 90 minutes, we had 20-odd shots, ten corners, they had one, we had much more possession, it was one of those were you think how have we lost 3-1?
"I would much rather play really badly and win 1-0. The performances, nothing wrong with that. We needed a result, we didn’t get it.
Coleman added: "Sometimes if there is a crowd of bodies and the officials can’t see through a crowd then I understand that, there wasn’t a crowd of players.
"It wasn’t a tough decision"
Sunderland fell behind to a low finish from Lucas Joao in the 59th minute but hit back within two minutes, George Honeyman’s header at the back post levelling the score.
Another defensive collapse cost Sunderland, Tom Lees volleying the Owls ahead in the 68th minute, former Sunderland target Atdhe Nuhiu adding the third 15 minutes from time.