Sunderland 0-2 Bolton
Bolton pushed Sunderland a step nearer Nationwide football next season with two knock-out blows to ruin Mick McCarthy's first game in charge.
Second-half strikes from Jay-Jay Okocha and Henrik Pedersen condemned the Black Cats to their seventh straight Premiership defeat, and a miserable 10th at home.
It leaves them rooted to the foot of the table, and 10 points adrift of Bolton, who earned themselves some valuable breathing space with their first away win in nine games.
McCarthy received a thunderous reception from a capacity crowd after taking over from Howard Wilkinson, but the match merely demonstrated the hopeless nature of his task.
Hampered at the outset by the absence of Jason McAteer, Kevin Kilbane, Jody Craddock and Gavin McCann, Sunderland's lack of quality was again glaringly apparent.
They started with plenty of energy but created little of note, and instead it was Bolton who took command, twice coming close to an opener in the 18th minute.
17 mins: Sorensen saves from Mendy
50 mins: Okocha puts Bolton ahead
55 mins: Frandsen doubles lead
First Bernard Mendy saw his curling 20 yarder tipped over by Thomas Sorensen, before Michael Gray cleared Ivan Campo's header off the line from the subsequent corner.
The visitors continued to create the better chances, Okocha drilling a free-kick narrowly over and Gudni Bergsson heading over when well placed.
Sunderland forced three corners in quick succession to bring the crowd to life, before Tore Andre Flo belatedly managed their first shot on target five minutes before the break.
The Norwegian's 25-yarder was superbly saved by Jussi Jaaskelainen, who promptly snaffled Kevin Phillips' weak effort from the rebound.
Sean Thornton was also denied with a snap-shot as the home side finally mounted some sustained pressure, but the optimism was swiftly curtailed on the resumption.
Phillips had another frustrating afternoon
In Bolton's first attack of the second half, Okocha rolled his foot over the top of the ball, completely fooling Gray, before sending in a cross-cum-shot from the by-line that Sorensen could only help into the net.
That setback became a full-blown crisis five minutes later when Joachim Bjorklund - on his first start since January - inexplicably hesitated after Sorensen saved Mendy's shot.
Pedersen - on his return to the side after injury - nipped in to coolly stroke the rebound into an empty net.
Flo immediately shot over at the other end and George McCartney sent a weak effort straight at Jaaskelainen as Sunderland mounted a desperate salvage job.
Phillips was denied a penalty and Kevin Kyle missed from six yards out, but the first of the Black Cats' nine lives had already gone.
Sunderland: Sorensen, McCartney, Bjorklund, El Karkouri,
Wright (Arca 45), Gray, Thornton, Williams, Proctor (Kyle 80),
Phillips, Flo (Stewart 66).
Subs Not Used: Poom, Babartney.
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, N'Gotty, Bergsson, Campo, Laville, Mendy,
Gardner, Pedersen (Salva 80), Frandsen, Okocha,
Djorkaeff (Nolan 88).
Subs Not Used: Poole, Andre, Barness.
Referee: J Winter (Cleveland).