The first half had not been an easy watch, a glut of sideways passing as both sides searched for control without taking the necessary risks.
The Black Cats had not offered a great deal of attacking threat but just as the whistle was about to blow, it looked as if their patience had paid off.
A good overlap on the right hand side, an excellent cross to the back post by Adam Matthews, Callum McManaman on hand to turn home.
As it happened, that was literal and not metaphorical. He had handballed, delight turning into horror and bemusement as Sunderland were left with a mountain to climb.
It was a moment of self-destruction that typified Sunderland’s woes at home this year and one from which they never recovered.
They came out for the second half sitting deep, but conceded from their first attack. Aiden McGeady gave the ball away in a poor area, and as feared, the midfield two of Darron Gibson and Lee Cattermole were exposed on the counter to allow David Edwards the opening goal.
From there on in it was shambolic, the crowd’s frustrations understandably growing as Reading rotated the ball with ease.
The 27,000 strong support did rally and look to roar the side on as Joel Asoro was introduced, but within minutes some appalling defending put the game out of sight.
Another goalkeeping error allowed the unmarked Modou Barrow to volley home at the back post, before statue-esque defending handed him another.
It was a painfully familiar collapse that underlines the sheer magnitude of the task that faces Chris Coleman, one defensive step forward last week followed by three backwards this.
Asoro’s inventiveness and fearlessness offered some cause for optimism as the game drew to a conclusion, but the sense of deflation with tough fixtures on the horizon is acute.
Yet again, the decision making from experienced players and the response to adversity was simply nowhere near good enough.
Coleman is trying to implement a new philosophy but until he can eradicate the woeful errors from senior members of his squad, Sunderland’s wretched home form will not end anytime soon.
This was a brutal reality check for those who came full of optimism once again.