The five-game unbeaten streak that had taken Sunderland to Premier League survival came to a halt at champions Chelsea on the final day of the season.
Despite going ahead through Steven Fletcher’s first goal since November, Sunderland came away empty-handed at Stamford Bridge, to finish the campaign in 16th spot.
It was a positive display in the final game of Dick Advocaat’s short-term tenure, with doubts persisting over whether the Dutchman will agree to extend his Sunderland contract for next season.
There were few signs of fatigue from Wednesday’s heroics at Arsenal, with Fletcher’s header from Adam Johnson’s corner putting Sunderland ahead.
But Diego Costa drew Chelsea level from the penalty spot, with a second half brace from ex-Newcastle loanee Loic Remy sealing victory for the hosts - sandwiched by a glorious chance spurned by Fletcher to equalise.
Vito Mannone, Jack Rodwell and Steven Fletcher were all included in the starting XI after Sunderland secured top flight safety at Arsenal in midweek.
Mannone replaced the injured Costel Pantilimon in goal, Rodwell took the spot of Lee Cattermole - not risked due to the threat of suspension for 15 yellow cards - while Fletcher came in for Danny Graham up front.
PFA Player of the Year Eden Hazard was passed fit for Chelsea, who made six changes from the side who lost 3-0 at West Brom.
At a strangely raucous Stamford Bridge, Chelsea came firing out of the traps - Juan Cuadrado jinking down the right-hand side of the area and sending in a dangerous low cross which was just diverted away by Sebastian Coates.
But despite coming under heavy pressure, Sunderland went close themselves in the 14th minute when Seb Larsson’s free-kick from the left goal, just outside the area, was pushed away by Petr Cech.
Moments later, Larsson was perhaps fortunate not to concede a penalty after bundling over Branislav Ivanovic, following a sublime crossfield pass from Hazard.
Ivanovic then saw a powerful angled right-footed drive from 20 yards pushed behind by Mannone.
Patrick van Aanholt should have done better in the 20th minute when Jermain Defoe’s through-ball sent the left-back in down the left-hand side of the area, with Ivanovic day-dreaming.
The Dutch international should have at least hit the target, but he dragged a poor shot across goal and wide of the far post.
Sunderland had kept their defensive shape excellently during Chelsea’s early onslaught and as the first half wore on, they began to get the ball down themselves.
Jermain Defoe saw a shot from a narrow angle down the left-hand side of the area pushed away by Cech after the striker was played in by van Aanholt.
But the opening goal arrived for Sunderland in the 26th minute when Adam Johnson’s right wing corner was allowed to box inside the Chelsea six-yard box and Fletcher arrived at the far post to head home.
Chelsea drew level from the penalty spot in the 37th minute when John O’Shea left a leg out right on the edge of the area and Cuadrado needed no encouragement in going to ground.
Substitute Diego Costa, who had replaced the injured Didier Drogba on his final Chelsea appearance, converted the subsequent spot-kick immaculately into the bottom left-hand corner.
It didn’t spark a fresh onslaught from the hosts though, with Defoe’s low shot from a tight angle turned behind by Cech on the stroke of half-time.
HALF-TIME Chelsea 1 Sunderland 1
Chelsea went close six minutes into the second half when Willian pulled the ball back to Loic Remy, 10 yards out, but his effort deflected off O’Shea and bounced just wide.
From the resulting corner, John Terry helped the ball on to Nemanja Matic, two yards out, but he somehow managed to send his header over the bar from point-blank range.
At the other end, a 20-yarder from Rodwell was pushed away low to his left by Cech.
Defoe then saw a shot cleared off the line in the 59th minute after Johnson’s quickly-taken free-kick had caught the Chelsea defence napping.
Johnson fed van Aanholt down the left-hand side of the area, with Cech turning away his pull-back, but only as far as Defoe, just inside the area.
The ball sat up awkwardly for Defoe, but he managed to get a half-volley in that was heading towards the far corner before Cesar Azpilicueta booted it clear.
Sunderland went close again four minutes later when Johnson looped a left-wing cross to the far post, where Fletcher headed into the turf and wide.
Willian then sent a skidding shot from 25 yards just past the post.
But Chelsea did go ahead in the 70th minute when Hazard drove towards the edge of the area and laid it off to Remy, who hit a low right-foot shot past Mannone.
The Italian should have done better, but he had taken a small step to his left and was caught out positionally.
Fletcher then spurned a golden opportunity to equalise immediately when he had a free header, eight yards out, to van Aanholt’s left-wing cross, but didn’t make a clean contact and sent his effort wide of the far post.
Mannone redeemed himself with 10 minutes to go when Willian met Remy’s right wing cross at the back post, but his header was excellently pushed away by the Sunderland keeper.
But Chelsea sealed the points with two minutes to go when Nemanja Matic crossed from the left and Remy beat Mannone too comfortably at the near post.
FULL-TIME Chelsea 3 Sunderland 1
CHELSEA: Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Matic, Mikel (Christensen 78), Willian, Cuadrado (Remy 44), Hazard, Drogba (Costa 29). Subs not used: Courtois, Luis, Boga, Solanke. Booked: Matic (82)
SUNDERLAND: Mannone, Jones, Coates, O’Shea, van Aanholt, Johnson (Giaccherini 75), Rodwell, Larsson, Defoe, Fletcher, Wickham. Subs not used: Cattermole, Reveillere, Graham, Vergini, Buckley, Pickford. Booked: Rodwell (32)