TONY Pulis appears to have reached that stage where many troubled managers find themselves – searching for something to offer protection other than results.

In the case of the Middlesbrough boss, it his relationship with chairman Steve Gibson. It may save him from the ignominy of dismissal after six straight defeats, but may not be enough to prevent him being moved on at the end of the season when his contract expires.

This was a result – and, just as crucially, a performance - that offered Pulis no shelter from the criticism that has poured down on him during that downward spiral.

It’s Boro’s worst run of results since 1954 when they lost eight games in a row. They managed six successive losses back in 1925.

But the Welshman framed questions over his future as a discussion between friends, rather than related to his record in recent weeks when Boro have fallen away from the promotion picture.

“Like I say, I came up to Middlesbrough for Steve (Gibson). He's the man that counts,” said Pulis in response to queries about how long he may remain in charge.

"Whichever way you cook it, we've got a good relationship and he's a good fella."

Even good fellas, though, have their limits. Such was the ease with which Swansea were able to stroll through Middlesbrough’s defensive lines, particularly in a ridiculously one-sided first half, that it’s legitimate to wonder whether Pulis can turn things around.

Boro were better, marginally, after half-time, but still conceded the next goal to trail 3-0 and by the time George Saville scored it was a footnote to a story already completed.

Pulis has an enviable managerial record and when he does leave a club it is usually because some kind of relationship has broken down, rather than due purely to results.

He left Stoke City with the team having finished 13th in the Premier League, chiefly down to a rupture in his bond with the club’s fans who were underwhelmed by what they viewed as a lack of progress.

At Crystal Palace, there was a fall-out with chairman Steve Parish, despite having been voted manager of the year a few months earlier for rescuing the club from relegation.

It was a similar story at West Brom, where although the club were in a lowly 17th spot, the friction between Pulis and Baggies supporters seemed to tip the balance.

His relationship with Boro supporters is strained.

Boro are still only four points off the play-offs with 18 more points still up for grabs and eighth position in the Championship table after a period of cost-cutting is hardly a catastrophe.

After all, Swansea are still five points worse off and back in 13th spot following their relegation from the Premier League. But whereas their supporters are enjoying the fluid football played by a young team with many home-grown players, Boro look stale like a side already in decline.

There are signs that Pulis’s famed powers of motivation may be on the wane as far as this group of players is concerned. Asked whether he believed Boro could still make the top six, he dismissed the suggestion that his own belief mattered.

"It's not me believing, it's the players. You've got to get the players believing and I think they believe they can. They were as disappointed as anybody else with the way they played in the first half.

"They've got to pick themselves up. We've had a good chat about it, I thought the way we played, it wasn't until five minutes into the second half we really got hold of the game the way we wanted. Even then Swansea called us problems on the break."

Boro midfielder Adam Clayton admitted the damaging effect on morale of earlier defeats and setbacks had taken its toll.

“We need to stay positive and get back to work because we just weren’t at the races in that first-half,” said Clayton.

"That's come from the previous games where we've done enough to win games but not quite got the goals. I think that showed in our first half performance.

"We were a little bit downhearted and we didn't get going in the first half. We can't let that happen. But three points changes everything and if we put a couple together we can make a push for it. Hopefully we can get that and then this is our bad run done. We don't care how it comes, it changes the whole atmosphere.”

Swansea were brimful of pace and creativity, such as 21-year-old winger Daniel James, who Pulis descrbed as “a special player.”

His direct running frightened the life out of the likes of Dael Fry, Aden Flint and Ryan Shotton and it was his burst past an alarmed Shotton that led to the penalty from which Matt Grimes opened the scoring.

The quality of Celina in midfield created the space for Wayne Routledge to make it 2-0, before Celina again picked out a beautiful pass to enable Connor Roberts to score a third for the Swans.

Savllie’s goal did nothing more than reduce the margin late on.