Cheltenham Town completed a marathon week of matches in the north with a comprehensive defeat by Sunderland.
Michael Duff's men have travelled more than 1,000 miles in seven days to face Preston North End of the Championship and two League One giants in Wigan Athletic and Lee Johnson's side here at the hugely impressive Stadium of Light.
True, they were missing key players through the spine of the team with the likes of Will Boyle, Callum Wright and Kyle Vassell missing, and there is no doubting Sunderland's title credentials.
But Duff's depleted side were the architects of their own downfall on Wearside with all the damage being done before the break.
"I've said all along that could happen," Duff said afterwards.
"We've had a really tough week and we've got four or five big players that aren't available.
"When we come to clubs like this we have to do more but we can't carry those type of injuries when you come to these type of places.
"We looked young and naive today. The frustration is we've conceded from two set pieces again, and we don't look like scoring from a set play so it's difficult.
"They're not in our league. We know that. If anyone expected us to come to these last two games and take points they would be optimistic.
"We have to do more. We have to fight more but it's not all doom and gloom. We'll stick together and learn."
It was already going to be an uphill task against the former Premier League outfit but a series of sloppy mistakes handed the the Black Cats a three-goal advantage at the interval.
Sunderland were dominant from the start and Mattie Pollock was called into a pair of last ditch clearances in the opening exchanges which lead to the first corner of the game.
From there Bailey Wright headed the hosts into an early lead, meeting Aiden McGeady's corner from the left with a downward header to beat Scott Flinders with 11 minutes on the clock.
Pollock was a whisker away from an immediate response with a header of his own but it dropped inches over the bar, his side's only chance of the opening 45 minutes.
The second arrived after a mistake by Lewis Freestone, gifting the ball back to Winchester who found Ross Stewart in the centre and he made no mistake.
Stewart then guided McGeady's cross over from a great position in the centre before heading another over moments later.
But he added the third seven minutes before the interval, this time meeting Carl Winchester's centre to complete the easiest of finishes.
Broadhead should have made it four on the stroke of half-time but he blasted high and wide.
Alfie May replaced Pollock at the interval and Duff reverted to a 4-4-2 formation for the remainder of the game, matching Lee Johnson's side.
May vollied the first chance of the second period a couple of minutes after the restart but at the other end, Sunderland continued where they left off with a chance for Stewart, who was denied by a diving tackle by Sean Long.
Flinders then produced smart saves to deny Aiden O'Brien and Corry Evans.
However the fourth and fifth goals arrived in quick succession through Luke O'Nien and subsitute Leon Dajaku to put the seal on a big win for the promotion hopefuls.
It was Duff's heaviest defeat as manager and a steep learning curve for these players but they must now must quickly prepare for this Saturday's match against Rotherham United.
SUNDERLAND (4-4-2): Hoffman, Huggins, Flanagan (Alves 57), Evans (c), Broadhead, O'Brien, O'Nien, Stewart, Winchester, Wright, McGeady (Dajaku 61). Subs not used: Burge, Embleton, Taylor, Pritchard, Neil.
CHELTENHAM TOWN (5-4-1): Flinders, Long, Pollock (May 46), Freestone; Blair, Thomas, Sercombe, Hussey; Perry (Barkers 70), Chapman; Joseph (Norton 70). Subs not used: Evans, Williams, Horton, Bonds.
REFEREE: C Sarginson
ATTENDANCE: 28,313 (277 Robins)