David Moyes admitted it was a day to forget as Sunderland suffered their second defeat on home soil since the end of October.
Marko Arnautovic produced a masterclass display and scored a brace inside 22 minutes to give Stoke City a commanding lead at the Stadium of Light.
Peter Crouch then scored his 99th Premier League goal 12 minutes later before Jermain Defoe reduced the arrears shortly after with a trademark finish.
Sunderland flew out the traps following the restart but after Fabio Borini saw his fierce drive saved and Jack Rodwell sliced wide from nine yards, the Black Cats’ hopes of a comeback were dampened out.
Speaking post-match, Moyes delivered an honest assessment.
“It was a poor opening part of the game from us, not necessarily that we played badly, but three mistakes have cost us,” he said
“We made it really difficult for ourselves and we were punished, but we got a goal back and in the second half we were better.
“We knew if we got a second goal we’d have the crowd behind us, but we created a couple of chances and unfortunately we couldn’t score.
“It would have been easy for the boys to hide and not try and take the ball, but Jack [Rodwell] had a chance, Fabio[ Borini] had a chance and Jermain [Defoe] got himself in positions, we just didn’t get anything from them,” he continued.
“We have been losing too many games this season but we’ve been using our home form as a positive and a confidence booster; if you take away the first 20 minutes of today’s game we did as much as Stoke today, but obviously it’s a 90 minute game and you have to be ready from minute one.
“Everyone knows we have injuries and players that are away, but we’re not going to use that as an excuse. The players that are out there have to perform.”