The breathing space provided by last week's victory over Stoke City has proved a short one as far as the Sunderland manager, Steve Bruce, is concerned. A late strike by Kieran Richardson notwithstanding, his expensively assembled team was well beaten by a Norwich side which cost considerably less but played as if they wanted the win an awful lot more. With their chairman, Niall Quinn, reported to be coveted by Manchester City to replace their former chief executive, Garry Cook, these are restive times at the Stadium of Light.
Bruce clearly found it hard to understand, or explain, why the same XI which had comprehensively outplayed the Potters eight days previously should have been very much second-best on Monday night. "We had too many individuals who were below par and the number of times we gave the ball away cheaply made it a very difficult night for us," he said.
"We have international players who unfortunately played poorly. I can't criticise their work rate and their effort to get something out of the game but simple mistakes made it a difficult game. I don't think Norwich were hungrier. We needed to be at our best and we simply weren't."
Like Sunderland Norwich had won their previous game (against Bolton) and were unchanged. It was the home side who had the early chances, through a Steve Morison shot and Wes Hoolahan's attempted lob, though the visitors were looking increasingly comfortable when Norwich took the lead with the sort of simple move which coaches spend Sunday mornings trying to drum into schoolboy teams.
A Norwich corner was cleared but picked up by Elliott Bennett on the right and the former Brighton winger beat Sebastian Larsson by means of a one-two with David Fox, and drove towards the byline before cutting the ball back for Leon Barnett, just inside the six-yard box, to turn past the exposed Simon Mignolet. If Larsson had been at fault, so was Titus Bramble, who was characteristically lax in his marking of Barnett.
Three minutes after the break Norwich extended their lead and again the manner of the concession will have angered Bruce.
Again Norwich worked the space for a cross by means of a neat pass, in this case Russell Martin playing in Marc Tierney down the left before the full-back's delightful hanging delivery was headed firmly past Mignolet by Morison for his first Premier League goal.
Five years ago Morison, having been released by Northampton Town, was plying his trade for Bishops Stortford in the Conference South.
Sunderland had their chances to get back into the game, notably when Nicklas Bendtner, isolated but toiling manfully, seized on Bradley Johnson's hesitation only to see his close-range effort deflected wide by the Norwich goalkeeper, John Ruddy.
Richardson, with a sweetly hit drive, ensured it would be a nervous final few minutes for the home team but Norwich closed the game out without too many scares.
"I'm as proud as anything of them," Paul Lambert, the Norwich manager, said. "It's tough to win back-to-back games in this league, especially for a club like us, and it means we go to Old Trafford [to play Manchester United] on Saturday a bit more buoyant. Home form is going to be crucial. We need to keep this place with the feeling its got at the moment, with the crowd behind us."