Sunderland's unbeaten run comes to an end after luck runs out at Burton
Their habit of starting games poorly had been cancelled out by their resilience and individual quality, but it always threatened to catch up with them eventually.
So it was at the Pirelli Stadium, the unbeaten run deservedly ended by a Burton side that were stronger for the majority of the game.
An outstanding individual strike from Chris Maguire raised hopes of an improbable fightback but Burton saw the game out with relative ease.
The Black Cats had started with arguably their strongest XI of the season to date, with a wealth of attacking talent raising hopes that they could put an end to their trend of beginning poorly.
Instead, they delivered their worst opening yet, outfought all over the pitch and miles off the pace.
Though they created the best opening of the early exchanges, with Josh Maja firing wide after a Bryan Oviedo cross was deflected into his path, Burton looked comfortably the strongest of the two teams.
Their pressure told when Oviedo, who had been a doubt for the game after international duty, let Marvin Sordell get the byline and cross. The otherwise exemplary Jack Baldwin missed his interception and the ball fell for Jamie Allen who had the easiest of finishes.
It was two 36 minutes in when another recurring weakness told for the Black Cats. A simple free-kick from David Templeton was turned in by Kyle McFadzean, who had been left in acres of space.
A woeful half was compounded when Charlie Wyke was stretchered off just before the break. He had collided with Dimitar Evtimov as they chased a loose ball.
Evtimov had only signed for Burton on Friday and looked out of control as he flew into the challenge, but the referee allowed play to continue.
Wyke was replaced by Chris Maguire but Sunderland continued to struggle and were fortunate to make it to the break two down.
Their start to the second period was even worse. Burton failed to convert two free headers from corners and Jon McLaughlin did well to deny Scott Fraser soon after, the midfielder escaping his marker in the box.
Ross called for Aiden McGeady but it was fellow substitute Maguire who gave his side a lifeline they had done little to deserve. He collected the ball in space, just outside the Burton area, and curled the ball into the top corner.
The visitors were finally able to apply some pressure and they came close to an equaliser when a corner dropped for McGeady, who couldn't hit the target on his left foot.
The Black Cats looked to have a chance of fighting their way back into the game and while their general play improved, chances were few and far between.
Burton saw the game out and were more than worthy winners.
Sunderland XI: McLaughlin; Matthews, Loovens (O'Nien, 84), Baldwin, Oviedo; Cattermole, Honeyman; Sinclair (McGeady, 51), Maja, Gooch; Wyke (Maguire, 43)
Subs: Ruiter, Hume, Ozturk, Flanagan
Burton XI: Evtimov; Akins, McFazdean, Turner, McCrory (Cole, 90); Quinn, Fraser, Allen; Templeton (Sbarra, 86), Sordell (Fox, 80), Boyce
Subs: Campbell, Hesketh, Harness, Hutchinson
Bookings: Matthews, 28 Cattermole, 45 McFadzean, 75