AFTER the final whistle had blown at the Stadium of Light, Simon Grayson shook hands with his opposite number Phil Parkinson and headed down the tunnel. He had the look of a dejected manager there and then, probably knowing what was about to come.

It was a night when Bolton’s fans taunted Grayson with ‘you’re getting sacked in the morning’, chief executive Martin Bain and Sunderland’s owner Ellis Short didn’t even wait that long.

In fact Grayson must have known within seconds of leaving his technical area that his 125-day reign as Sunderland manager was already at an end – with a pretty typical climax to his brief spell in charge.

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A failure to beat Bolton, the only team who had been below Sunderland in the Championship, at the Stadium of Light means Grayson’s 18-match reign ended with just one league victory to his name and that was back in August at Norwich.

Back then there were signs of recovery, but ever since there has been one mistake after another and his last match in charge was no different.

Despite watching Lewis Grabban take his tally to an impressive eight goals in such a struggling side since moving from Bournemouth, and Paddy McNair return from injury with the goal that secured a point, Grayson had no solution to the costly errors which have blighted his time in charge.

Sammy Ameobi was allowed far too much space to open the scoring in the 32nd minute and then, after Grabban’s brace, the former Preston boss was left perplexed in his area as another Newcastle fan Gary Madine pulled things level on the hour.

Then Didier Ndong’s ridiculous attempt at a back pass seven minutes later resulted in Karl Henry volleying Bolton ahead – sparking further calls for ‘we want Grayson out’ from the Sunderland fans.

Even though McNair struck to claim a point with 11 minutes remaining, you have to think that Bain was already wording the club statement. Grayson’s big gamble to leave Preston to revive the Sunderland’s fortunes was about to come to an end.

The 47-year-old from North Yorkshire had the players’ backing, and there were plenty of signs of that in the way Sunderland started positively against Bolton and battled back to avoid defeat.

His failure to address a slide that started last season, and beyond, ultimately cost him and now his successor must come up with a better plan to end a home hoodoo which has seen Sunderland equal a 19-game winless record in front of home fans previously set by Dagenham, Derby and Nottingham Forest.

Sunderland actually moved up a place in the Championship, albeit even if they still sit in a relegation place, after avoiding another defeat courtesy of McNair’s strike, but that mattered little in the minds of many supporters – and crucially Bain.

After the awful defeat to Bristol City on Saturday, Grayson knew he was on borrowed time. The only surprising thing was that he actually got to lead the team into battle again.

He tried to mix things up by making four changes. As well as recalling goalkeeper Robbin Ruiter between the posts at the expense of Jason Steele, there were also omissions for Lamine Kone, Duncan Watmore and Billy Jones.

It meant Jonny Williams, Callum McManaman and Aiden McGeady were the support lines to lone striker Grabban, in perhaps an indication of the players Grayson felt he could trust in such a pivotal fixture and one he had to win – and probably in style.

Bolton, fresh from promotion from League One last season, might have had plenty in their ranks to suggest they would be desperate to pile further misery on Wearside, but it wasn’t as easy as that – or at least it hadn’t been until the opener.

As well as Newcastle academy graduates Ameobi and Adam Armstrong, they also boasted Gateshead-born Magpies fan Madine in attack.

The best of Sunderland’s chances saw McGeady cut inside on to his right foot after some clever link up play with Ndong, only for the goalbound shot to take a deflection that ended with the ball dropping for a corner.

But, like so often this season, any good work was soon undone by some dreadful defending at the other end and it was no surprise who it was who hit the opening blow. Even if he had no right to.

A routine long ball into the Sunderland half was knocked down by Madine. Ameobi was left in acres of space, by the midfield and defender Marc Wilson, to control and pick out the inside corner of Ruiter’s net – and the goalkeeper should have done better on his return to the side.

Fans turned on Grayson for the first time by demanding for him to go, while they also directed ‘you’re not fit to wear the shirt’ at the players who had fallen behind again.

Suddenly any confidence they had built up in those early moments had gone, with passes regularly going astray. But then the lifeline, and the lift, arrived with the last attack of the half.

It was Ndong, so often the architect of Sunderland’s best passages of play, who spotted the run behind the defence from Grabban. The on-loan Bournemouth striker outpaced his marker before cleverly rolling a finish beyond the onrushing Alnwick from a tight angle.

Rather than let things grow from there, Grayson made the move to play with two strikers by introducing James Vaughan for Williams. The move appeared to have had the desired effect, or at least it looked that way because they took the lead just before the hour.

Ndong and Grabban linked up again, playing in Bryan Oviedo, who then had the space and time to roll a pass across the six yard box for the onrushing Grabban to tap in his second.

At that stage Sunderland had lifted the crowd and should have gone onto win it. Instead the lead lasted less than two minutes and it was self-destruct time again.

Firstly a high ball towards the Sunderland box was flicked on by David Wheater, and then the second ball was nodded on by Ameobi and it dropped perfectly for Madine to convert from close range.

Seven minutes later worse was to come. Ndong, arguably Sunderland’s best player to this point, stupidly played a back pass without looking. Antonee Robinson cut it out and clipped a cross to the back post where Henry was on hand to convert.

The calls for Grayson to go restarted. On came the manager’s final throw of the die in the form of McNair and, six minutes after his introduction, he levelled things up by drilling into the bottom right corner from 20 yards.

After that Sunderland looked like the only team who could win it, but Grayson was already on his way out. His players got to the byline enough but found Bolton in no mood to buckle for a fourth time and the game ended level.

The point was always unlikely to be enough to save Grayson, and it didn’t take long for the club statement to make its way up to the media suite at the Stadium of Light.

Now the search is on for Sunderland’s ninth manager in the last six years - the size of the task facing the new man remains a monumental one.