EVEN Jack Clarke couldn’t get Sunderland out of this mess.

The winger has bailed out the Black Cats on countless occasions this season but by the time he was introduced from the bench against Blackburn for his return after a six-week lay-off, the damage was well and truly done.

Indeed, plenty of the supporters who had applauded Clarke when he trotted out to warm-up early in the first half had gone by the time he came on early in the second. At that stage, Blackburn – a team who headed for Wearside just three points above the relegation zone and without a win in nine games since John Eustace took charge - were 4-0 up.

There was a late consolation from substitute Chris Rigg but when Blackburn went up the other end and scored their fifth, the away supporters were chanting “easy”. The roars of “ole” had started long before from up in the away end.

This was an utter humiliation for shambolic Sunderland, who, after a step forward at Cardiff, then took two back with this disaster of a home defeat. Only Rotherham had conceded more goals than Blackburn’s 65 ahead of Monday’s game and yet Sunderland had only managed two shots on target before Rigg’s late goal.

But it was at the back where Sunderland were an absolute mess. Blackburn could – should – have scored more.

For Dodds and Sunderland, this was the low-point of a campaign that has petered out in alarming fashion since the bodged decision making that saw Tony Mowbray sacked and Michael Beale arrive. But what was most disappointing was the fact it came just four days after the impressive win at Cardiff that at least offered some encouragement that the Black Cats could go into a decisive summer with momentum and positivity. That feels extremely unlikely after a defeat like this.

Despite Blackburn’s lowly standing, this was never a gimme for Sunderland. Rovers had drawn six of their last eight games and had only once in seven outings conceded more than a single goal in a game. It was Sunderland who looked like a team in relegation trouble.

And yet, they actually started relatively brightly. Adil Aouchiche went close with a header and Pierre Ekwah tested Aynsley Pears. It was not a sign of things to come.

Sunderland were sloppy, the early tempo disappeared and were booed off at half-time, by which stage Blackburn were 2-0 up and in complete control. “Rubbish” bellowed one supporter who was sat just in front of the press box. He wasn’t wrong.

The opener came just before the half-hour mark. Patrick Roberts, rusty from the off, slipped inside his own half and lost possession. Tyrhys Dolan played a neat one-two with Blackburn substitute Ben Chrisene – who’d replaced the injured Harry Pickering – and crossed for Szmodics, who cut low into the corner.

Seven minutes later, Szmodics had his and Blackburn’s second, turning in from six yards after a Joe Rankin-Costello cut-back. The high-point of the first half for the home supporters was the sight of Clarke trotting out to warm-up. How he was needed – but by the time he was introduced 10 minutes into the second half, Blackburn were running riot and had helped themselves to two more goals.

It was far too easy. Hedges started and finished the move for the third, winning a tackle inside his own half, continuing his run and after a touch to get Gallagher’s pass under control, he couldn’t miss. The fourth was a gift. Dan Neil lost possession and Blackburn took full advantage, the impressive Dolan poking in off the post.

Dodds – who couldn’t hide his understandable anger - immediately turned to the bench and Chris Rigg and Bradley Dack were introduced alongside Clarke. Two of the substitutes combined when Dack's header was saved and Rigg tapped in the rebound. But the slightest of joy was short-lived and substitute Andrew Moran wrapped up the rout.