Sunderland have gone bottom of the Championship after going down 1-0 to relegation rivals Bolton Wanderers at the Macron Stadium tonight.
A controversial Zach Clough goal in the 17th minute enough to separate the sides, Lee Camp unable to prevent the ball going in past his near post.
Sunderland appealed for a handball but referee David Coote gave the goal and Sunderland couldn’t find a way back. Ashley Fletcher missing several chances.
With Burton Albion beating Barnsley 2-1 away, Sunderland sink to the foot of the Championship, three points from safety.
Chris Coleman made three changes and switched to a flat back five, with Lamine Kone replacing Ty Browning, Paddy McNair in for Ethan Robson and Bryan Oviedo in for Aiden McGeady, dropped to the bench.
Billy Jones and Oviedo provided the width from full-back, Sunderland roared on by a 1,000-strong away following at the Macron Stadium.
There was little to separate the two sides, both operating with wingbacks. Sunderland carved out the best chance 12 minutes in.
Ashley Fletcher showed good strength to hold off the challenge from Bolton skipper David Wheater, laying the ball across the face of goal but Joel Asoro couldn’t get a boot on it.
Coleman would have been happy with the opening 15 minutes, a stark improvement on the Brentford display yet by the 17th minute they were 1-0 down.
An innocuos looking Filipe Morais free-kick found Zach Clough who had lost his marker and he bundled the ball home, Lee Camp beaten far too easily at his near post.
It was a howler from the on loan Cardiff City stopper despite the strong appeals for handball, the goal was awarded.
Sunderland had a wonderful chance to equalise on the half hour mark, McNair with a precise ball over the top for Fletcher, who took a touch but his effort was saved by Ben Alnwick. The Middlesbrough loanee yet to find his range in a Sunderland shirt.
Paddy McNair had a couple of efforts from distance, both saved comfortably by the Bolton stopper as Coleman’s side steped up the pressure as the half wore on.
The Black Cats showed some fight towards the end of the first half, with Fletcher, who also sent a header wide, in on goal again, this time his effort was deflected wide for a corner.
From that set piece there was a goalmouth scramble, the ball eventually cleared.
Sunderland showed some spirit after going behind and they were the better side for the rest of the half but crucially failed to penetrate the Bolton defence.
Half time: Bolton Wanderers 1 Sunderland 0
There were no changes for either side at the break, Sunderland starting where they had left off at the end of the first half, on the front foot.
Billy Jones produced an excellent low cross into the area but there was nobody on the same wavelength to take advantage.
Bolton were on the backfoot, but Sunderland couldn’t find a way through. Fletcher again guilty of wasting a good opening, firing high and wide.
Phil Parkinson made the first move from the bench, Derik Osede and Adam Le Fondre on for Aaron Wilbraham and Zach Clough on the hourmark.
Aiden McGeady came on in the 63rd minute, Billy Jones the man to depart. Asoro continued to cause problems with his pace, Wheater bringing him down inside the D for a free-kick.
Wheater was booked, sub McGeady stepped up but his low effort was poor and hit the wall.
Sunderland continued to dominate the possession but they were finding it hard to break down a stubborn - if a little ragged at times - Bolton defence.
Coleman shuffled his pack again in the 73rd minute, Josh Maja on for Clarke-Salter with George Honeyman dropping from right wing-back to right-back as Sunderland switched to a 4-4-2.
It was Bolton though that then enjoyed their strongest spell of pressure, Sammy Ameob firing a low effort at goal, the ball whizzing past Camp’s right-hand post.
For a brief moment there was a pitch invasion from a home supporter, it didn’t the Bolton stewards long to get hold of him though.
Bolton, still on top, then saw Adam Le Fondre’s header well saved by Camp, the Sunderland stopper diving to his right. Morais hit the crossbar from the follow-up.
On came Callum McManaman to add some fresh legs with eight minutes to go, Asoro the man to depart after another lung-busting shift.
Sunderland continued to press forward as the game edged towards a conclusion but they were unable to find an equaliser.
A strong save from Alnwick prevented sub Callum McManaman from scoring the equaliser deep in added-on time.
Poor finishing and an awful goalkeeping mistake at fault for another defeat with Sunderland staring down the barrel of League One football next season.
Full time: Bolton Wanderers 1 Sunderland 0
Bolton (5-3-2): Alnwick, Taylor, Dervite, Beevers, Karacan (Burke, 90), Wheater (C), Henry, Clough (Osede, 60), Ameobi, Wilbraham (Le Fondre, 59), Morais.
Subs Not Used: Howard, Flanagan, Robinson, Walker.
Booked: Wheater (64), Henry (67), Morais (90), Ameobi (90).
Goals: Clough (17)
SAFC (5-3-2-): Camp, Jones (McGeady, 63), Kone, O’Shea (C), Clarke-Salter (Maja, 73), Oviedo, Cattermole, McNair, Honeyman, Asoro (McManaman, 83), Fletcher.
Subs Not Used: Steele, Williams, Love, E Robson.
Referee: David Coote.
Attendance: 14,915 (SAFC 1,358)