Simon Grayson was left to rue Sunderland's lack of cutting edge in the final third in the 2-0 defeat to Leeds United.
Defeat to Thomas Christiansen's side brought an end to Sunderland's unbeaten start to the season - though it could have been different had the Black Cats taken the lead.
Lewis Grabban linked up well with James Vaughan before the former saw an effort headed onto the crossbar by Leeds defender Liam Cooper on the line.
That chance turned the game, with Leeds taking advantage of some slack defending up the other end within a minute to take the lead.
Samuel Saiz scored the opener with a low effort after bursting into the box before sub Stuart Dallas added a second with a header midway through the second half as Leeds ran out comfortable runners in the end.
Grayson felt Sunderland lacked quality in the final third, with the final ball and finishing not up to scratch with Felix Wiedwald rarely tested.
"I thought first 20 minutes we were the dominant team and played with tempo and real quality, that is the fine margins in games," said Grayson.
"I don't think Cooper knew too much about [Grabban's effort] hitting him on the head and then the bar, then 70 seconds later it is in the back of our net.
"When the opposition get the first goal it isn't easy but our players kept going, they didn't give in, they worked extremely hard.
"We just lacked the real quality in the final end of the pitch to try and change the game or get back into it. Leeds are a good team and have some good players.
"Dallas and [Kemar] Roofe coming on, these are players that have commanded a bit of money over the last few seasons.
"If we'd got that first goal it would have made a different outcome, I think. We were really on the front foot and I was pleased with the players.
"We didn't have that final pass, decision making to really unsettle a difficult back four to play against and a goalkeeper that didn't really have a shot to save.
"More quality and better decision making was needed.
"I have learned a lot about the players since I have been here from day one, again today they kept going.
"It would have been a different game six minutes to go if Billy Jones scores that opportunity - it would have been difficult for Leeds.
"But we didn't take that chance. I was pleased with aspects of the team and other aspects we need to improve on. We have said that even when we were winning games."
Dallas looked to be just offside for his header but Grayson wasn't complaining.
"His right leg looked to be just offside, I won't complain about it," added Grayson.
Leeds wideman Ezgjan Alioski dominated the opening 45 minutes, giving Sunderland left-back Brendan Galloway a difficult afternoon, with almost every move coming down that side.
The Sunderland boss switched Aiden McGeady and George Honeyman round in a bid to provide more cover but it had little impact with Galloway enduring an afternoon to forget.
Grayson admitted it was a difficult afternoon for the Everton loanee, with Adam Matthews replacing him in the second half.
"It is never easy in the Championship and Brendan has done alright for us. He found it difficult against a difficult player," added Grayson.
"We know with Aiden McGeady that side he will give you loads going forward - and you want him too - and sometimes you have to sacrifice his defensive duties.
"It is a learning curve for everybody when you lose a game. You analyse it, don't get too down because we have been winning games over the past week.
"Players have worked extremely hard over this schedule - nobody else in the Championship has had the schedule we have or against the level of opposition."