It had been dubbed St Niall's Day by Sunderland supporters keen to celebrate the return of their club's self-styled saviour, but immediately following a third successive League defeat there was a look of the devil in the eyes of the Black Cats' new manager.
Widely regarded as one of the most amiable and relaxed individuals in football, anger and a confrontational manner are not in the make-up of the man now running the Stadium Of Light show on and off the pitch.
Yet a plainly furious Niall Quinn was in fighting mood as he threatened the very future of his first-team players in the wake of another hugely disappointing defeat. "After that, only the tough will survive," said the glaring Irishman in a barely veiled threat to those he feels are undermining the value of the famous red-and- white stripes.
"Everyone can see that we need new faces, and there is the money available to bring them in. I just have to persuade them to come here.
"I'm deeply disappointed with that performance. It was the good, the bad and the ugly of Sunderland Football Club.
"Heads went down when Plymouth cancelled out our first goal, and after that we became disjointed. You could smell the mistakes in the air.
"I need players who can burst through when their backs are against the wall, and I need players who can be stronger mentally. To come away and press the self-destruct button was very hard to take."
Sunderland, of course, have made a habit of self-destructing during the past two years, and it does not appear that the worst team in Premiership history are any closer to shaking off last season's top-flight hangover.
This was a home fixture which screamed three points to a club with aspirations of an immediate return to English football's top level. However, Plymouth are a rising force under the expert stewardship of Ian Holloway, a manager who would not have tolerated his opponents' meek second-half surrender. "I want people to change their opinion of Plymouth Argyle," said the former Queen's Park Rangers manager as he reflected on his unfancied team's fully deserved victory and an unbeaten start to the Championship season.
"What we have at this club money just can't buy. We have an incredible team spirit, and my players have an excellent attitude. I want the whole of the South-west to watch us every week.
"Call me mad, but that's what I want. I want to change things at this club and I want to create a team our supporters can be proud of in the process."
Those Argyle fans who made the arduous trip to the North- east were well rewarded for their loyalty after Sunderland's Daryl Murphy had opened the scoring after just 26 seconds.
A memorable right-footed lob from the effervescent David Norris after the home defence gave him too much room drew the visitors level, and the hapless Black Cats centre-half, Danny Collins, could only head Barry Hayles' fierce drive into his own goal six minutes before the break.
Although Quinn's agitated players forced themselves back into an entertaining fixture in the 67th minute - Stephen Elliott heading home his fellow Irishman Murphy's smart centre - it was Plymouth who claimed the victory their application and attacking instinct deserved.
Their substitute Nick Chadwick capitalised on a familiar Sunderland defensive lapse and his right-foot shot was far too powerful for the home side's goalkeeper, Ben Alnwick.Reuse content