Alan Shearer may have reached the end of the line following the knee injury he sustained yesterday. As for Sunderland, just when they thought it could not get any worse, it has.
After supplying myriad bitter memories from this season, it looked as though they would finally give their suffering supporters one sweet success to cherish. But this is Sunderland. Life couldn't be that simple.
This surrender will hurt even when this campaign becomes a hazy memory. After out-fighting and out-playing Newcastle for almost an hour, and leading 1-0, they capitulated during a crazy seven-minute spell that ended with them trailing 3-1.
For their rivals Newcastle this was almost the perfect day, although there is a concern that Shearer, who will have a scan on Thursday, may not recover in time for the end of the season.
"It doesn't look good," the 35-year-old former England striker said. "They think there might be a tear in the medial ligament, and if that is the case then that'll be it.
"I wanted to go the full distance, yes, but if I have to finish, then it's not a bad way to go out, coming to your local enemies and scoring a goal that's helped us get a 4-1 win," he said.
Sunderland's grip on Newcastle had appeared suffocating before Lee Clark created a flashpoint with a late lunge on Tommy Miller. Newcastle's caretaker manager Glenn Roeder immediately replaced him with Michael Chopra. Cue Sunderland humiliation.
Chopra's first act was to take advantage of hesitancy between Steven Caldwell and Kelvin Davis following Titus Bramble's punt forward. Chopra nipped in and touched the ball beyond the fumbling Davis.
The delirium had barely died down when Justin Hoyte felled Charles N'Zogbia and Shearer's successful penalty gave Newcastle their second within two minutes. The carnage continued when N'Zogbia added a third, five minutes later, with a mazy run that left three confused Sunderland defenders helpless before he slid the ball into the far corner. "With the utmost respect to Newcastle, we beat ourselves," said Sunderland's caretaker manager Kevin Ball.
Albert Luque, who replaced the hobbling Shearer after 71 minutes, made matters worse in the dying moments by racing through from deep to make it 4-1.
Sunderland had started so well, Hoyte beginning the move that led to their deserved goal as he threaded the ball to Jonathan Stead, who found Dean Whitehead. When the Sunderland midfielder crossed, Hoyte was on hand to score.
After Newcastle's revival Roeder was a relieved man, having had to give a difficult half-time team talk. "That wasn't the time to be calm and talk," he said. "It's like the shirt we wear - black and white. When I'm black, get out of the way."
Sunderland (4-4-2): Davis; Hoyte, D Collins, Caldwell, McCartney; Lawrence, Whitehead, Miller, D Murphy (Arca, 64); Stead (Kyle, 69), Brown. Substitutes not used: J Murphy (gk), Breen, Leadbitter.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Carr, Moore, Bramble, Babayaro; Solano, Clark (Chopra, 59), Faye, N'Zogbia (Boumsong, 87); Dyer, Shearer (Luque, 71). Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Ramage.
Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).Reuse content