Sam Allardyce admits Sunderland are now the "relegation favourites" and he faces an uphill task to prevent that fate.
The gap between Sunderland and the safety mark extended to four points yesterday after the Black Cats suffered a dispiriting 1-0 defeat against Southampton.
Sunderland are a point worse-off than at the same stage of the 2013-14 campaign, when Gus Poyet needed a 'miracle' to keep the club in the top flight in a dramatic finale to the season.
And Allardyce is under no illusions about the "mammoth task" facing him to avoid the drop.
"We are relegation favourites because we are in the bottom three and getting out of the bottom three is a long haul now," he said.
"When you have got fewer points than games, as many fewer points than games as we have got, then we have got a mammoth task just to get out of the trouble we are in at the moment.
"There's no point in trying to bull**** anybody: it's going to be a long haul to get where we need to get.
"What I want to try to do is not have one of those end-of-the-season desperations that this club has become used to over the last four years where if you don't win four out of the last six, you are going to get relegated.
"That's the last thing that these players should have on their minds. Now is the time to start winning and drawing, not the last six games of the season, right now starting next game."