Sunderland 0 Manchester 1: New boys impress, but Cats left empty-handed
As Sunderland have slipped further and further towards the relegation precipice, Sam Allardyce has bemoaned his side's failure to pick up two or three more draws.
The Black Cats have finished all-square on just one occasion under Allardyce's stewardship - the 1-1 draw with Bournemouth 10 days ago.
When every point in the battle for survival counts, a couple extra to Sunderland's tally would have made a tangible difference.
Unfortunately, a 1-0 defeat against Manchester City fell into the same category; Sunderland's excellent efforts after the opening 25 minutes counting for nothing as they came away empty-handed.
A share of the spoils was the least Sunderland deserved after they were denied by two superb saves from Joe Hart, plus the woodwork.
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But Sergio Aguero's 16th minute goal proved to be sufficient for title-chasing City, as Sunderland's hopes of remaining in the Premier League took another dent.
January signings Lamine Kone and Jan Kirchhoff were both handed their first Sunderland starts, with the latter occupying a holding midfield role in a 4-1-4-1 set-up.
The pair began the game in positive fashion, with a couple of robust challenges, yet it was City who threatened first when Aguero fired inches wide from 25 yards after an awful loose pass from Yann M'Vila.
And it was Aguero who opened the scoring in the 16th minute when Jesus Navas' right-wing cross deflected beyond all of Sunderland's defenders to the Argentine, loitering on the left-hand side of the six-yard box.
Aguero - who had been given far too much room by marker Billy Jones - was left with just Vito Mannone to beat and he calmly tucked it into the top corner.
The City frontman was then a whisker away from another when he curled a dipping right-foot shot onto the roof of the net from the edge of the area.
But Sunderland should have levelled in the 34th minute when Kone headed wide from eight yards out after meeting Jeremain Lens' inswinging free-kick with the goal at his mercy.
Then on the stroke of half-time, Sunderland were left cursing their fortune after somehow missing out on equaliser.
Hart kept out Jermain Defoe's shot on the turn with his finger tips after the England international had rolled centre-half Martin Demichelis.
Jones raced towards the rebound, but from a tight angle on the right-hand by-line, he couldn't squeeze the ball between Hart and the woodwork, with his shot coming back off the outside of the post.
Sunderland had finished the first half on the front foot and they continued in that vein after the break, with £9million new boy Wahbi Khazri introduced to the fray.
But it wasn't until the final 15 minutes that Sunderland began to threaten City's goal again.
Jones' powerful right-footed shot from the edge of the area was powerful tipped behind at full-stretch by Hart.
Khazri almost scored direct from the resulting corner, only for Hart to readjust and punch the ball back out to the Tunisian international.
His cross made its way through to John O'Shea at the far post, but the Sunderland skipper could only scoop a harmless shot over the bar.
Khazri almost scored again direct from a corner with two minutes to go, only for Fernando to readjust and head clear off the line.
Sunderland: Mannone, Jones, O'Shea, Kone, Kirchhoff, van Aanholt, Cattermole (Johnson 75), M'Vila, Borini (N'Doye 82), Lens (Khazri 46), Defoe. Subs not used: Pickford, Brown, Yedlin, Watmore. Booked: Jones (59)
Manchester City: Hart, Sagna, Demichelis, Otamendi, Clichy, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure (Kolarov 79), Navas (Sterling 76), Silva, Aguero, Iheanacho (Fernando 46). Subs not used: Caballero, Zabaleta, Celina, Barker. Booked: Otamendi (80), Aguero (90), Fernandinho (90), Sagna (90)