For the third match in a row, the Ipswich manager suffered that sinking feeling as his team dropped 12 points behind their hosts in the race for promotion to the Premiership. While Sunderland strengthened their hold on pole position, pulling 10 points clear of Bradford City at the top of the table, Ipswich are falling off the pace in fifth place.
Not that Burley's boys were off the pace in an entertaining contest on the banks of the Wear. They were the sharper for much of it, in fact. It was simply their misfortune to find Sunderland in resolute mood - and both Naill Quinn and Thomas Sorensen in form.
Quinn emerged as the match-winner, his 12th and 13th goals of the season outweighing if not aesthetically eclipsing the goal of the game by Matt Holland. But Sorensen was the match-saver.
With the action screened live on Danish television, Sunderland's goalkeeper grasped his opportunity to press for Peter Schmeichel's national jersey. The Danish Under-21 international, a pounds 1m summer signing from Odense, was outstanding in the home goal, denying Holland what would have been a point- saving goal for Ipswich with a brilliant diving effort on the stroke of half-time.
"That turned the game for us," Peter Reid said, though the Sunderland manager diplomatically declined to say that Holland should not have been allowed the chance to turn the game. The former West Ham midfielder ought to have played no part beyond his 23rd-minute challenge on Alex Rae. It was so far over the top it could have been a bone-breaker but Holland, Ipswich captain for the day in the absence of the suspended Tony Mowbray, was shown yellow rather than red. The incident, however, did backfire on the visitors, firing up Sunderland after a damp squib of a start.
Reid's team were very nearly caught napping after half a minute, Richard Naylor heading David Johnson's long throw-in from the left an inch or two wide of the near post. Within three minutes of Holland's tackle, though, Sunderland were ahead. Kevin Phillips fed the ball out to Allan Johnston on the left and the Scotland winger, back in action after knee ligament problems, curled a precise cross to the far post for Quinn to head in.
Ipswich, having dictated the opening quarter, found themselves two goals behind after 32 minutes. Richard Wright could only paw out Lee Clark's low, angled shot and Holland, in attempting to clear the loose ball, merely diverted it to Quinn, who scored with a curling shot.
Burley was an anguished figure, standing next to the visitors' dug-out - no doubt muttering to his right-hand man, "Houston, we have a problem." To the frustration of the Ipswich manager, and his assistant, Stewart Houston, the problem was only half solved.
Holland beat Sorensen with a sweetly struck right-foot drive seven minutes before the break, finishing an exquisite move orchestrated on the left by Mark Venus. Thanks to Sunderland's Great Dane of a goalkeeper, however, Ipswich were point-less and not quite over the moon at the final whistle.
"I'm disappointed with the result but not with the performance," Burley said. "If we keep playing like that we'll not be too far away at the end of the season."
Goals: Quinn (26) 1-0; Quinn (32) 2-0; Holland (38) 2-1.
Sunderland (4-4-2): Sorensen; Makin, Butler, Melville, Gray; Rae (Bridges, 62), Ball, Clark, Johnston; Phillips (Dichio, 74), Quinn. Substitutes not used: Craddock.
Ipswich Town (3-5-2): Wright; Bramble, Thetis, Venus; Wilmus, Dyer, Magilton, Holland, Clapham; Naylor, Johnson. Substitutes not used: Logan, Holster, Tanner.
Referee: E Wolstenholme (Blackburn).
Bookings: Sunderland: Rae, Melville, Quinn. Ipswich: Bramble, Holland.
Man of the match: Sorensen.