There was a mixture of groans, anxiety and bemusement when the teams were announced at the Stadium of Light.
Jan Kirchhoff, fresh from his White Hart Lane nightmare, was in the starting line-up – against the likes of Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Yaya Toure.
Fans were preparing for the worst.
The initial fear was that Sam Allardyce was reverting back to a 3-5-2 formation, with the tall German partnering John O’Shea and fellow home debutant Lamine Kone at the back.
But it soon emerged that, no, Kirchhoff would instead be playing in front of the back four.
It’s a position he has played previously in his career and his versatility was one of the reasons Big Sam was attracted to him.
But memories of his debut as a second-half sub in the Spurs drubbing were still fresh in the mind.
He was at fault for at least two of the goals that day and looked cumbersome and way off the pace.
Allardyce later admitted he shouldn’t have brought him on.
Nevertheless, there was still apprehension in the bitterly cold air on Wearside last night. But two weeks of building his fitness and sharpness on the training pitch – plus two friendly matches – looks to have paid off.
Kirchhoff, a £750,000 capture from Bayern Munich, looked a different player.
The holding midfield role suited him far more, he had more time on the ball and always looked to pick a forward pass.
Allardyce had been critical of his team for dallying over possession in their own third of the pitch, but Kirchhoff always looked for a forward pass.
He kept thing simple in the middle, didn’t panic or looked flustered, covered plenty of ground and provided an added shield to the defence.
This was a far more encouraging display from Kirchhoff and looks to be his best position.
Kirchhoff caught the eye but £5million Kone was equally impressive at the back.
His first involvement was a mistake, heading the ball away for a corner and Vito Mannone had to save him from an early embarrassment after he flicked the ball on at the near post.
But after that he began to flex his considerable muscles.
The former Lorient defender took his time in arriving at Sunderland. But on this showing, it looks to have been worth the wait.
Strong, athletic, sharp and willing to thrown his body in where it hurts, he even went on a mazy first-half run down the right wing.
And just ask Yaya Toure how strong he is. He dominated the second half defensively for Sunderland.
One criticism is that he should have scored.
Jeremain Lens picked him out with an inch-perfect free-kick but he nodded the ball wide when it looked easier to hit the target.
But he wasn’t signed to score goals, he was signed to shore up a very leaky Sunderland defence.
And while the Black Cats were on the end of another defeat, it was cruel on them.
New £9million attacking midfielder Wahbi Khazri was the third debutant, coming on at half-time for Lens.
And he showed flashes of what he can bring to Sunderland’s relegation dogfight.
He also showed a willingness to track back, which Allardyce would have appreciated.
The Tunisian international had a reputation for being a dead-ball specialist and he proved that with two clever corner routines.
Twice he almost caught England’s No 1 Joe Hart out at his near post.
Dame N’Doye’s late appearance from the subs bench was the fourth and final home debut of the night for the Black Cats.
He was pushed wide right and couldn’t really influence the game late on.
But Big Sam was delighted with the impact of the other three.
Yet with games now rapidly running out, is it a case of too little, too late for Sunderland?
The new signings, on first impressions, seem to have added some quality.
But defeat was hard to take as it leaves the Black Cats in deep, deep trouble.