Sunderland extended their unwanted winless streak to 14 matches on Sunday when they were held to a 0-0 draw at home to Fulham that did little to ease their relegation fears.
Fulham were back in action after a 3,200-mile round trip to Shakhtar Donetsk in the Europa League on Thursday, but if there was fatigue in their ranks, Steve Bruce’s side were unable to capitalise.
A poor game yielded few clear-cut chances and the result leaves Sunderland 14th in the Premier League table, three points above the relegation places.
Fulham, who will take on Italian giants Juventus in the last 16 of the Europa League after their heroics in Ukraine, move above Everton into ninth.
Sunderland showed a willingness to attack from kick-off but a couple of disappointing Kieran Richardson free-kicks were the sum total of their early efforts and the game gradually became turgid.
England hopeful Bobby Zamora headed well wide from a Simon Davies pass in Fulham’s first chance of note, while Kenwyne Jones thrashed a volley over the crossbar at the other end.
Darren Bent assumed dead-ball responsibilities for Sunderland and almost embarrassed Mark Schwarzer with a scuffed free-kick.
Fulham could have gone into the break with a 1-0 lead but, following a goalmouth scramble, Zamora failed to trouble Craig Gordon with a header.
Schwarzer was called into action after 10 minutes of the second period when Alan Hutton let fly with a left-footed shot, having cut inside from the right.
The hosts began to assert control as the game entered its final half an hour and Bent shaped a shot narrowly wide from the edge of the penalty area.
Fulham responded, with Duff dragging a shot across goal and wide, before Sunderland substitute Boudewijn Zenden came agonisingly close to putting the hosts ahead when he fired into the side netting from Jones’s flick-on.
Hutton was then inches away from connecting with Zenden’s inviting centre before the final whistle signalled an opportunity missed for Sunderland.