West Ham dealt a terrible blow to Sunderland's hopes of remaining in the Premier League with a 2-1 victory at the Stadium of Light.
Andy Carroll put the visitors ahead early on before Mohamed Diame doubled their tally in the second half. Adam Johnson scored after coming off the bench to set up a nervy finale, but the Hammers managed to survive the onslaught and escape with all three points.
Carroll gave the visitors an early lead, dealing a deadly blow to the rivals of his boyhood club by rising highest to head in Mark Noble's corner amid some pretty slack marking from the hosts, John O'Shea in particular.
Sunderland now needed some inspiration, and they may have looked to Lee Cattermole in some form. The combative midfielder has never scored for the Black Cats, but came within a whisker of opening his account in his last game against Liverpool. His effort here after being teed up by Ki Seung-Yeung, however, was nowhere near as good as he saw his first shot blocked and his second fly wide.
Sunderland were seeing much more of the ball, but could do little with it as they lacked a cutting edge, while West Ham looked far more dangerous while attacking. Yet it was Sam Allardyce who made a change at half-time, bringing on Pablo Armero for George McCartney.
With just five minutes gone in the second half, Sunderland's situation looked a lot bleaker. Carroll once again got the better of O'Shea, muscling him off the ball and playing in Mohamed Diame, whose weak shot was nonetheless guided past Vito Mannone.
Gus Poyet reacted immediately by bringing on Adam Johnson for Cattermole, and the winger made an instant impact, helping Sunderland to look much more dangerous in attack, but poor touches from Fabio Borini and Ki led to the chance to pull a goal back disappearing.
West Ham then had a chance to seal the points when Stewart Downing was put through on goal, but his attempted low curler to the far post drifted just wide, a poor miss that sent Allardyce into bewilderment on the touchline. And just afterwards, the visitors were made to pay. Johnson was the predictable goalscorer, getting on the end of Craig Gardner's pass to fire home with an excellent finish and kickstart Sunderland's attempted fightback.
West Ham were soon panicked into retreat, but defended diligently and the hosts simply could not find a way through. Vito Mannone launched himself up for a late corner, but the chance eventually came to Ignacio Scocco, who got on the end of Marcos Alonso's cross but directed his header wide. It was the last chance for a Sunderland side who battled but simply looked like they were not good enough for the Premier League. A miracle will be needed to save them now.
Sunderland: Mannone, Bardsley, Alonso, Brown, O'Shea (Gardner 60'), Vergini, Ki (Scocco 79'), Bridcutt, Cattermole (Johnson 53'), Borini, Wickham.
Goals: Johnson 65'
West Ham: Adrian, Demel, McCartney (Armero 46'), Reid, Tomkins, Noble, Taylor, Nolan (Nocerino 84'), Downing, Diame (Johnson 79'), Carroll.
Goals: Carroll 9', Diame 50'