Sam Allardyce took comfort from his side’s “encouraging” performance in the 1-0 defeat to Manchester City.
But he admits defeat at the Stadium of Light was hard to take given it was one of the best performances his struggling side had mustered since he took charge.
Whether that will be enough to get us out of trouble, who knows.
The Black Cats started brightly but fell behind to a 16th minute strike from in-form City striker Sergio Aguero.
Aguero was given too much time but he took his goal well and Sunderland could never find a way back into the game despite dominating for large spells.
And Allardyce admits his side, 19th and four points off safety, deserved much more.
“It is the most disappointed I have been since I have been here in terms of the result, we deserved so much more,” said Allardyce.
“But against City we deserved so much more, it makes it so much more disappointing for us all.
“The encouraging thing was the performance and trying to continue to play at that level will be the demand from me.
“If you continue at that level of performance, and the new players continue their level of performance then we will show a more consistent level of results.
“Whether that will be enough to get us out of trouble, who knows. But certainly the performance was very encouraging.”
The manager insists his job now is to encourage his players to match that level of performance and give them the freedom to do it.
He added: “That is important. I was pleased when you take the gamble, the calculated risk, that I have taken, and on the City performance it looks reasonably good for the future.
“I hope their performances continue to get better and the rest of the lads continue to perform at this level. It will bring us more results than defeats, which is what we need to get out of trouble.”
Allardyce was left frustrated by City’s tactics, with referee Stuart Attwell doing little to clamp down on the amount of fouls by the visitors.
Jermain Defoe was involved in an altercation with Martin Demichelis and Nicolas Otamendi, with the City defenders accusing Defoe of using an elbow.
When quizzed on it, Allardyce added: “Manchester City conceded 16 fouls, we conceded five. It took the referee 12 or 13 fouls before he even considered giving them a yellow card.
“He gave us a card after four fouls, it shows the level of of tolerance from the referee towards Manchester City.
“I have seen Demichelis, he doesn’t have a problem with his cheek, there is no bruising and if he did, it wasn’t intentional.”