SHAMBOLIC Sunderland were routed 4-0 by fellow strugglers Aston Villa, as the pressure cooker was ramped up on Black Cats boss Gus Poyet.
The Stadium of Light’s biggest crowd of the season saw Sunderland produce their most abysmal home performance of the campaign after a first half horror show from Poyet’s men left supporters showing their disgust.
First half braces from Villa strikers Gabby Agbonlahor and Christian Benteke doubled the tally the visitors had managed away from home all season.
It left thousands making their way to the exits before the break, while a handful had to be led away by stewards after trying to confront Poyet in the home dug-out.
The result dropped Sunderland to fourth bottom, with a third win on the spin under new boss Tim Sherwood seeing Villa climb above the Black Cats in the relegation scrap.
Steven Fletcher got the nod up front alongside Jermain Defoe, as one of three changes to the starting XI, with Ricky Alvarez and Patrick van Aanholt also included - Danny Graham, Santiago Vergini and the suspended Lee Cattermole the players to miss out.
Striker Christian Benteke was passed fit for Villa, while Brad Guzan returned in goal at the expense of ex-Sunderland loanee Shay Given.
Fletcher began the game asked to tuck inside from the left flank, with Alvarez operating in an orthodox right-wing role.
Sunderland controlled the early exchanges, yet Costel Pantilimon was forced into an 13th minute save when Charles N’Zogbia hit a well-struck left-footed shot from the edge of the area that the keeper smothered with his body.
Three minutes later, Sunderland fell behind after Scott Sinclair’s flick to the overlapping Leandro Bacuna on halfway ripped apart the Black Cats defence down the right.
Bacuna pulled the ball back to Christian Benteke, 12 yards out, whose low shot took a wicked deflection off John O’Shea and left Pantilimon completely stranded.
It was the first of a quick-fire blow from the visitors, as Villa doubled their advantage within two minutes.
O’Shea completely mis-read Cieran Clark’s hopeful punt forwards and it allowed Agbonlahor to race in behind the Sunderland skipper.
As Pantilimon came out of his goal, Agbonlahor kept his cool and dinked the ball beyond the stopper into the unguarded net.
Sunderland were stunned and it took them a good 10 minutes to regain their composure - Jack Rodwell heading a couple of yards wide of the near post from Liam Bridcutt’s right-wing cross.
But Bacuna continued to tear Sunderland to shreds down the right and would have provided a third on the half-hour mark, if it wasn’t for an awful miss from Sinclair.
Bacuna skipped past Wes Brown’s challenge and pulled it back to Sinclair, four yards out, who somehow managed to loop his shot over the bar.
However, the reprieve was only temporary, as the third arrived for Villa in the 37th minute after the visitors took advantage of more shambolic defending.
N’Zogbia broke from halfway on the counter-attack and fed Agbonlahor to the right of goal, just inside the area.
Agbonlahor waltzed past the challenges of Brown and Patrick van Aanholt before side-footing a shot into the bottom corner.
Hundreds of Sunderland fans made their way from the seats in response, with a handful having to be lead away by the stewards near the home dug-out.
It could have got even worse three minutes before the break when Fabian Delph’s angled left-foot shot from 25 yards just drifted wide of the far post.
But then a fourth did arrive a minute before the interval when dangerman Bacuna was awarded acres of space on the right and his cross to the far post saw Benteke get above Anthony Reveillere to head past the static Pantilimon.
HALF-TIME Sunderland 0 Aston Villa 4
Sunderland began the second half with 10 men, with Seb Larsson not remerging until more than three minutes of the game had taken place, while receiving treatment.
During that farce, N’Zogbia went close to another, curling a left-foot shot from 25 yards which Pantilimon tipped over the bar.
At least, Sunderland tried to get themselves in the scoresheet, with half-time substitute Connor Wickham linking up well with Fletcher, who fired a cross-come-shot across the face, just in front of Defoe.
Larsson then curled a free-kick just past the post midway through the half.
The woodwork denied Sunderland a consolation in the 81st minute, when Rodwell threaded the ball through to Fletcher, down the left-hand side of the area, and the Scot’s stabbed left-footed shot beat Guzan, but came back off the inside of the far post.
Wickham then smashed a shot just over the bar from 25 yards after a slick effort on the turn.
FULL-TIME Sunderland 0 Aston Villa 4
SUNDERLAND: Pantilimon, Reveillere, van Aanholt, Brown, O’Shea, Bridcutt, Larsson, Rodwell, Alvarez (Wickham 46), Defoe, Fletcher (Graham 83). Subs not used: Jones, Gomez, Coates, Vergini, Mannone. Booked: Bridcutt (90)
ASTON VILLA: Guzan, Lowton, Okore, Clark, Bacuna, Delph, Cleverley, Sinclair (Sanchez 64), N’Zogbia (Weimann 79), Benteke (Hepburn-Murphy 83), Agbonlahor. Subs not used: Given, Gil, Kinsella, Westwood, Hepburn-Murphy. Booked: Bacuna (8)
Referee: Neil Swarbrick