Sunderland's hope of continuing in the Captial One Cup came to a thunderous halt as Scott McDonald's first half strike was enough to send 'Boro through, and raise yet more questions about our own performance and quality on a bitterly cold evening at the Stadium Of Light.
No changes at the start of the second half came as a little bit of a surprise since we'd been second best for the large part of the first half, but things did manage to pick up. Slightly. We're talking from "shitty" to "a bit pooey" level of increase in our performance.
Stephane Sessegnon shot wide early on. It didn't particularly test Jason Steele in the 'Boro goal, but hell - at least it's a shot.
Sess was the next man in action too as he tried his damnedest to get on the end of a Lee Cattermole dinked freekick, but unfortunately his 4'5 frame didn't come in particularly useful and a wayward boot was well away from the action.
It's perhaps the most frustrating thing in football. You can accept that every week you're not going to be at your best but we just seemed to be completely lacking in any creativity. Adam Johnson sent in wave after wave of poor set-piece but nobody could get anywhere near them. Lee Cattermole even tried to get in on the action but couldn't get provide a cutting edge (as you'd expect).
McClean it was who provided a moment of inspiration late in the second half with a lovely jinky run which guided him past several 'Boro defenders, but unfortunately much like everything else his teammates had done so far, the good buildup was ended with an incredibly tame and easy effort.
'Boro were not done though. Scott McDonald went in search of a second goal and forced Keiren Westwood into a diving save, and Stuart Parnaby did the same minutes later. A worrying sign that we could well go on to lose this by more.
Meanwhile Fraizer Campbell was introduced as a glimmer of hope as Adam Johnson trundled off the pitch following yet another lackluster performance.
In fact the closest we managed to come was when Andre Bikey nearly put through his own net with eight minutes left to play. You wouldn't have said we particular deserved such a slice of luck.
Four minutes of time were added, one last chance to get something from the game... Stephane Sessegnon wastefully headed into the arms of Steele from close range, Campbell similarly followed suit.
The visitors wasted time as they're perfectly entitled to do so. We had no answers at all.
Overall, you have to say we were second best throughout. They say that "To Dare Is To Dream", however to see Sunderland show any attacking promise or even dare come close to threatening an opposition goal feels like a distant dream right now.