Tuesday's goalless draw against high-flying Tottenham perhaps demonstrated a renewed vigour in the Sunderland side, but with something like a minimum of 21 points now required from the remaining 16 games of the season in order to stay up, the limitations of the squad were again laid bare.
Another transfer window which has now passed without adding a striker and some creative ability in the middle of the park may yet mean the perpetual relegation-fighters finally succumb to the drop this season.
Did David Moyes play the whole darn thing wrongly, or was his a thankless task of trying to sell this ailing club to players who assessed their options and decided against spending the final third of the season in a desperate battle?
We take a look at the fate of some of those players who were rumoured to be a target for Sunderland as deadline day approached, and whether any of them were actually anywhere near a move to the Stadium of Light.
Leonardo Ulloa - Striker
The Argentinian was thought to be the subject of a flutter of deadline day bids from Sunderland; but in the end, Leicester City - with no need to sell to raise funds - decided against allowing the target man to a switch to a relegation rival.
Claudio Ranieri faced some late pressure from the 30-year-old himself, and his representatives, to enable a deal to go through to allow him to leave the King Power Stadium, even whispering the 'S' word to force the Foxes hand (Strike!).
In the end it all came to nothing and Ulloa has settled himself for talks with the Leicester hierarchy. Talk in the run-up to deadline day had suggested the Foxes wouldn't let the striker leave for less than £11m, with reports suggesting Sunderland closed their bidding at £8m.
Andreas Samaris - Midfield
Not swayed by the fact no one took much interest during the window itself, reports in Portugal have this morning continued to insist Sunderland submitted a bid of 20-million-euros to Benfica for defensive midfielder Andreas Samaris.
Nobody at Sunderland was ever drawn on whether the 27-year-old was indeed a target, but Portuguese outlets were convinced Samaris was on his way to England. In the end, they've merely concluded that the Lisbon-based club changed their mind on allowing him to leave in January as the Primeira Liga leaders held onto him to aid their title challenge.
Nedum Onuoha - Centre back
Reports in Glasgow Live last night claimed Sunderland were one of a number of clubs, including Celtic, who were put off signing the defender by the price-tag slapped on him by Queens Park Rangers.
It was the Telegraph who appear to have been the first to claim David Moyes was interested in bringing the Nigerian-born centre-half back to the club he spent time on loan at in the 2010-11 season.
Diego Contento - Left Back
After Sky Sports originally claimed Sunderland had enquired about taking the 26-year-old on a loan deal from Bordeaux until the end of the season, the trail then largely went cold as no further progress was reported on either side of the Channel.
Certainly Contento appeared to be on his way out of FC Girondins de Bordeaux after apprearing to fall out with the Ligue 1 club's hierarchy, and with Sunderland desperate to land a left-back to replace the now-departed Patrick van Aanholt, the deal appeared to make sense.
In the end, on deadline day, Jocelyn Gourvennec - manager of the French side - insisted offers had been received which "suited neither he [Contento] or the club". Ultimately with Everton relenting on their previous stance that they would not listen to bids for Bryan Oviedo, Sunderland presumably abandoned the pursuit.
Robbie Keane - Striker
The only one with any lingering hope that a deal can still be achieved, Sunderland's pursuit of Robbie Keane has also gone quiet.
The former Republic of Ireland skipper can still sign for Sunderland - presently he is without a club - but Preston are reported as being favourites to land him with their now former striker, Eoin Doyle having departed for Portsmouth.
Leeds and Fulham are also being mooted as potential destinations and perhaps the veteran will opt for a club which can offer him a root into management after he successfully gained his coaching badges last Autumn.
In truth, the arrivals of Joleon Lescott, Darron Gibson and Bryan Oviedo have at least added a few extra bodies to an injury-ravaged side; and on paper, Sunderland are now not too bad when it comes to squad size - it's just that a fair chunk of them remain injured and that as a collective David Moyes' men still lack a liberal dose of quality within their ranks.
Perhaps the disappointing window, which was never billed as being likely to reap much success anyway, will have galvanised those who remain until the end of the season. After all, somewhere deep in the bowels of the Stadium of Light remains a deep-rooted survival instinct. And perhaps the best bits of business lay in keeping hold of Jermain Defoe and Lamine Kone - with perhaps Wahbi Khazri set to get a fresh chance at impressing David Moyes too.