Sunderland lost their third game in eight days as Manchester United coasted to a 3-0 victory at the Stadium of Light.
The visitors barely had to get out of second gear with goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marcus Rashford giving Jose Mourinho's side renewed hope of finishing in the top four. Sunderland had Sebastian Larsson sent off for a challenge on Ander Herrera in the first half but the defeat leaves the Black Cats 10 points from safety with seven games remaining.
David Moyes' side have now gone seven games and over 11 hours of football without finding the back of the net. Relegation now seems inevitable for a team that have flirted with the drop for the past five seasons.
Moyes made one change from the defeat at Leicester City on Tuesday with Victor Anichebe coming in for the ineligible Adnan Januzaj. Mourinho made four changes following the midweek draw with Everton as Sergio Romero, Matteo Darmian, Luke Shaw and Paul Pogba replaced David De Gea, Ashley Young, Daley Blind and Michael Carrick.
The visitors dominated large parts of the first half with Jesse Lingard stinging the palms of Jordan Pickford in the opening minutes. Sunderland struggled to contain United's lively midfield with a lack of communication between Didier Ndong and Anichebe seeing promising attack break down.
However, the home side grew into the half with Bryan Oviedo, who would later go off with a hamstring injury, testing stand-in United goalkeeper Romero from a free-kick. Sunderland went close again with Lee Cattermole striking a fierce effort from the edge of the area.
As the Black Cats were starting to show signs of confidence they were hit with a sucker as United took the lead through Ibrahimovic. The Swede managed to hold off and easily turn Billy Jones and was not closed down by Lamine Kone, before sweeping a curling effort beyond Pickford into the bottom.
It almost got worse for Sunderland as Shaw fired in a dangerous cross from the left hand side and Marouane Fellaini left with a virtual tap-in but the effort was smothered through a combination of Pickford and Oviedo. The hosts had an excellent chance to equalise when Anichebe managed to roll Eric Bailly five yards from goal and get a shot off but was foiled by Romero.
If Sunderland's task wasn't hard enough, the sending off of Larsson gave them a mountain to climb. Referee Craig Pawson deemed the Swede's lunging challenge on Herrera, reckless and over-the-top and dismissed the midfielder to the blistering rage of Larsson and the bemusement of the Stadium of Light.
The game was effectively over as a tie 37 seconds after the restart as Mkhitaryan finished off a flowing United move and slammed a low drive beyond Pickford to double the lead. Sunderland spent the remainder of the match chasing shadows as United wasted chance after chance.
Sunderland's best chance summed up their afternoon as Defoe wasted a golden opportunity managing to shoot wide from a few yards out. Substitute Rashford put the icing on the cake for United adding a third in the closing moments of the game.