The night City’s title challenge died? Time will tell but the list of favours required has lengthened.
But the opportunity to climb back on the horse, change the conversation and make a statement was missed and only a late show saved the Blues from a seventh Barclays Premier League defeat of the season.
Three and a half years have passed since City last lost two league matches in a row – a repeat of that was inconceivable for the majority packed inside a sold out Etihad Stadium .
Or so they thought.
Happily, there wasn’t much time to dwell on the idea initially as Fernandinho had given his team the lead before many fans had even taken their seats.
That second minute goal didn’t pave the way for the expected onslaught as the visitors quickly recovered, grew in confidence and looked likely to equalise during a tense and even first-half.
Just when it looked as though City may have weathered the second half Sunderland storm, Gus Poyet's side found their leveller with 15 minutes to go and, incredibly, took the lead ten minutes later.
Samir Nasri grabbed an 88th minute equaliser to spare blushes but City's late rally for a winner proved in vain as a point, which does little for either team's ambitions, was shared.
Would City’s title hopes disintegrate in the space of four days, or would they provide a reaction befitting of 2013/14 champions?
That was the question troubling fans as they filed into the Etihad Stadium on a beautiful Manchester evening that signposted the summer drawing ever closer.
They didn’t need to look far for a managerial statement of intent.
The City XI told you all you needed to know about Pellegrini’s mindframe ahead of this game as he reverted back to the two upfront system which plundered so many goals through autumn, reuniting a lesser-spotted, long missed partnership in the process.
It’s incredible that Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo have only started together in nine Premier League games this season and only once since January’s 3-0 win against West Ham in the Capital One Cup semi-final second leg.
Sunderland arrived at the Etihad Stadium aiming to stem a run of four successive defeats to ignite fading hopes of beating the drop.
Adam Johnson started on his old stomping ground in front of 797 optimistic travelling supporters but this flicker of hope would be tested after just two minutes.
There was nothing particularly special about Aguero’s pass from left to right on the edge of the Sunderland box but the dummy from Negredo was sublime and allowed Fernandinho a clear shot on goal.
The Brazilian was stretching but managed to get just enough purchase on his effort to lift it over Vito Mannone’s hands into the net at the near post for his fifth goal in a City shirt.
Sunderland’s best chances of an instant response twice came from set pieces and twice John O’Shea will feel he should have levelled in the fifth and tenth minute, but his free headers were narrowly wide and over respectively.
"Aguero started like a man with springs in his boots, operating in double speed, in a hurry to add to his 26 goals for the season but Mannone made good saves from two of his fizzing long-range efforts."
...City v Sunderland: Match report...
City weren’t having things all their own way, however, and Fabio Borini probably should have scored his second goal against the Blues this season when he found himself all alone in the area with Joe Hart, but he dragged his shot an acute angle wide on 18 minutes.
A robust challenge from Wes Brown on Aguero provided a pantomime villain midway through the first period but a half-hearted penalty appeal for a Wickham tackle on Kun as the half-time whistle approached was the only cause for supporters to climb to their feet.
It would have been a soft award.
Half-time came and went and little changed, with most of the action concentrated in the midfield battleground.
Though Aguero and Negredo had shown glimpses of their extrasensory relationship, Pellegrini sought a new angle of approach ten minutes into the first half, introducing Stevan Jovetic.
The ball-hungry Montenegrin made an immediate impression, dovetailing beautifully with Samir Nasri, Fernandinho and Negredo, allowing City to retain possession higher up the field and put a wearying Wearsiders on the back foot.
Stevan's energetic 35 minute cameo was one bright spot on a night of few, hinting that there may be someone to "Silva" when the Spaniard is absent (as he was here), or able to Silva on the rare occasions when Silva isn't Silva-ing.
Just as the home side looked to be closing on three precious points, Sunderland rocked the Etihad with 15 minutes to play, finding the equaliser their committed performance had warranted on the counter-attack, when Emanuele Giaccherini crossed for Connor Wickham to tap home.
The home side were fighting to save their title dream and it showed in their increasingly desperate play.
"Substitute Edin Dzeko thrashed a chance from close range wide when latching onto good work by Kolarov on the left but after a flurry of corners were cleared, the unthinkable happened."
...City v Sunderland: Match report...
Sunderland scored again after 83 minutes.
With most of the City XI caught up the pitch in pursuit of a priceless second goal, Poyet’s men broke and Wickham kept his nerve to strike past Hart again and drive a nail into the City coffin.
2-1. The abyss.
You probably could have heard the faint echo of roars from Merseyside and West London, had it not been for the delirious Sunderland supporters inside the Etihad.
A “QPR moment” was required and when Nasri’s shot somehow squirmed under Mannone to level the scores with two minutes left, it felt forthcoming, but the Frenchman poked over the best chance of a winner seconds later.