David Moyes is leading his club, Sunderland into relegation following their Tees-Wear derby loss to fellow strugglers Middlesbrough, who registered a first victory of 2017.
Marten De Roon’s goal early in a drab contest was the 59th Sunderland have conceded this season and left the Black Cats 12 points adrift of safety with five games remaining.
Sunderland face Bournemouth on Saturday and could be relegated if they fail to win and other results go against them.
The Black Cats are bottom of the league, having spent 236 days in the relegation zone, and have taken just two points from the last 27 available.
Second-bottom Middlesbrough cannot be relegated this weekend but they face a tough run of fixtures, with matches against Manchester City, Chelsea, Southampton and Liverpool to come.
“We think we can still do it,” said Sunderland boss David Moyes before the game, but the on-field body language and frantic decision-making betrayed a side low on confidence.
The Black Cats started strongly, but once De Roon scored they lacked intensity, losing possession too easily to leave Moyes frustrated on the sidelines.
The defence that allowed an unmarked De Roon to ghost in and score was culpable again minutes later as Stewart Downing ran through on goal but Jordan Pickford – one of Sunderland’s few bright spots this season – made the stop.
Sunderland looked slightly better going forward, with record signing Didier Ndong lashing a shot at Brad Guzan before Billy Jones headed the rebound over. However, in a tepid game where both sides struggled for rhythm, the Black Cats could not keep the pressure on for long.
The boos the Sunderland players walked off to at half-time were amplified come the end of the match, with fans chanting “you’re not fit to wear the shirt”.
Sunderland will be relegated at the weekend if:
They lose to Bournemouth and Hull avoid defeat at Southampton
They lose to Bournemouth and Swansea – who play on Sunday – beat Manchester United
They draw with Bournemouth and Hull win at Southampton