ROCK-BOTTOM Sunderland’s chances of beating the drop appear even more remote after a second half capitulation at Tottenham.
Lee Cattermole’s first ever goal for Sunderland threatened to cause a huge upset in the battle to beat the drop, yet a series of self-inflicted errors ultimately saw Gus Poyet’s side suffer their heaviest defeat of the season.
Emanuele Adebayor bundled home an equaliser before half-time and even at that stage, Sunderland still had a chance of recording a first victory since February.
But after Harry Kane gave Spurs the lead early in the second half, Sunderland collapsed.
Christian Eriksen, Adebayor and Gylfi Sigurdsson added further goals to leave Sunderland seven points adrift of safety with seven games to play.
Poyet made a huge call before the game by leaving out skipper John O’Shea, with Carlos Cuellar taking the place of the Republic of Ireland international to make his first start since November.
Cuellar’s inclusion was one of two changes to the starting line-up, with Adam Johnson taking the place of Connor Wickham, as Poyet kept faith with a 5-3-2 formation.
Wes Brown took the armband from O’Shea to lead the Black Cats out.
Spurs boss Tim Sherwood made four changes from the side which was thrashed 4-0 at Liverpool, with Emanuele Adebayor, Harry Kane, Paulinho and Vlad Chiriches all recalled to the starting XI.
Sunderland had a scare in the sixth minute when Christian Eriksen’s cross from the right deflected off Marcos Alonso and needed to be tipped over the top from under his own crossbar by Vito Mannone.
But as the rain poured down, the Black Cats went agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock in the 14th minute after Brown met Johnson’s inswinging free-kick from the right.
From six yards out, Brown sent his header back across goal, but it bounced off the turf and inches beyond the far post, with Spurs stopper Hugo Lloris motionless.
Three minutes later, Sunderland were ahead, albeit through an unexpected source as Cattermole found the net in his 112th appearance for the Black Cats.
The goal stemmed from some determined pressing from Fabio Borini and Johnson, who chased down both Lloris and Vlad Chiriches.
The latter played a loose square ball which went straight to Cattermole, who planted a pinpoint first-time right-footed shot into the bottom corner from 25 yards with Lloris out of position.
Moments later, Nacer Chadli’s shanked a volley from outside the area into the path of Kane, six yards out, but his off-balance effort was blocked well by Mannone.
In the 22nd minute, Eriksen played a free-kick short to Kyle Naughton 25 yards out, who sent a low right-footed shot into the side netting.
Sunderland went close to a second three minutes later after Borini made a surging run down the left flank.
Borini laid it back to Liam Bridcutt, who picked out the bursting run of Cattermole down the left-hand side of the area.
Cattermole fed Borini whose low shot towards the near post was pushed behind by Lloris.
Spurs pulled level in the 28th minute though after some awful Sunderland defending.
All three Black Cats centre-halves stood and watched as Eriksen sent in a low ball from the left across the six-yard box before Adebayor deflected Brown’s attempted clearance into the bottom corner off his midriff.
Former Sunderland loanee Danny Rose then went close with a left-footed shot from 20 yards which swerved just wide of the far post.
A minute before the interval, Eriksen sent a free-kick a yard wide of the post.
HALF-TIME Spurs 1 Sunderland 1
Sunderland fell behind in the 59th minute after again being exposed at the back by a low Eriksen cross.
The Dane was allowed to whip in a low inswinging cross from the left, which skidded off the slick surface, and Kane got in behind Brown to stab it beyond Mannone.
Substitute Nacho Scocco produced a decent long-range effort in the 74th minute when he let fly with a dipping half-volley from 20 yards which rippled the side netting.
But with 12 minutes to go, Spurs sealed victory when the excellent Eriksen let fly from the edge of the area with a left-footed shot that deflected off the heel of Phil Bardsley and into the bottom corner.
Moments later, Adebayor could have made it four after being played in down the left-hand side of the area, but he could only send a tame shot towards the far corner which was comfortable for Mannone.
But Spurs did increase their lead with three minutes to go when Kane ghosted past Santiago Vergini on the edge of the Sunderland area and then hit a tame shot which somehow managed to nutmeg Vito Mannone.
Emanuele Adebayor, who was clearly offside, pounced on the loose ball and tapped it into the empty net.
Spurs completed the rout in stoppage time when Mannone couldn’t get enough on his punch to Eriksen’s corner, Younes Kaboul teed up substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson, who smashed it home from point-blank range.
FULL-TIME Spurs 5 Sunderland 1
TOTTENHAM: Lloris, Naughton, Kaboul, Chiriches, Rose, Lennon (Townsend 84), Chadli (Sigurdsson 82), Paulinho (Veljkovic 88), Eriksen, Adebayor, Kane. Subs not used: Friedel, Fryers, Bentaleb, Sandro.
SUNDERLAND: Mannone, Bardsley, Brown, Vergini, Cuellar (Gardner 72), Alonso, Cattermole (Scocco 72), Bridcutt, Ki, Johnson, Borini. Subs not used: Ustari, Larsson, Wickham, Colback, O’Shea. Booked: Alonso (21), Cattermole (42)