A 6-1 Premier League win gives Aston Villa hope for beating the drop.
European football round-up: Paolo di Canio 'sorry' after Aston Villa thrash Sunderland
Di Canio was fuming at the meek surrender of a team whose mini-revival came to a shuddering halt thanks to Christian Benteke's hat-trick.
The result leaves Sunderland, like Villa and Newcastle, five points clear of third-bottom Wigan. And Di Canio was not happy.
"We have to apologise to the supporters," said Di Canio, whose side were suffering their biggest defeat since 2010. "You can lose with a big gap but the way it happened was not acceptable.
"It is beautiful to be there with the fans when you win against Newcastle. But you also have to stand in front of them when you lose heavily."
It looked like being a promising evening for Sunderland after Danny Rose levelled within two minutes of Ron Vlaar's first-half piledriver.
But Matt Lowton's break created the chance Andreas Weimann finished off just before the interval and once Benteke had destroyed the visitors, Gabriel Agbonlahor rubbed it in a minute from time to become Villa's highest-ever Premier League goalscorer.
"There were two different teams on the field," he said. "Aston Villa had a ferocity. They had desire and ambition, like it was the last chance of their lives.
"For us, after two wins in a row, our stomach was a bit full.
"When you eat a lot, you relax, you sleep.
"Now we have to work with blood in our eyes."
To compound a terrible night, Sunderland also had Stephane Sessegnon dismissed for a second-half challenge on Yacouba Sylla. A three-match ban would rule Sessegnon out for the remainder of the campaign, although Di Canio has confirmed the club will appeal.
"There was nothing in it," he said. "The leg was not straight. He didn't want to cause any damage to his opponent. The referee fell in a trap. It wasn't a nasty action."
Di Canio also indicated he was not concerned at the abuse he received from the Villa fans, who have not forgotten his 'going down' gesture at them when he was Swindon manager earlier in the campaign.
"I don't mind. It is not an issue for me," he said. "You can add another two thousand bad words to the millions that I received in my football career."
For Villa manager Paul Lambert, it was another night of praise for Benteke, who has now scored 22 goals this season. "You can't speak highly enough of him," said Lambert.
"He keeps his feet on the ground and is hungry to have success as a footballer.
"He is a big lad and everyone can see his technique is fabulous.
"He played a lot games for Genk. He is Belgium's main target player and they are going to qualify for the World Cup.
"People forget he is 22. He has a big career in front of him as long as he keeps working hard."
Victory saw Villa pull five points clear of the drop zone with three games left to play. Wigan, the FA Cup finalists who have a game in hand over the Birmingham club, are now in greatest danger of joining already demoted Queens Park Rangers and Reading as one of the three clubs relegated from England's top flight.
Spanish Primera Liga
Real Betis 1 Deportivo La Coruna 1
Deportivo La Coruna moved out of the Primera Liga relegation zone, but only by a point after being held at Real Betis on Monday night.
Depor's fantastic recent run - they have now won four and drawn two in their last six games - has transformed them from relegation certainties to favourites to beat the drop and they took the lead in Seville through Riki.
But the hosts are still in with a shout of European qualification and levelled early in the second half through Jorge Molina.
Portuguese La Liga
Maritimo 1 Benfica 2
Benfica closed in on the Liga title with a 2-1 win at Maritimo.
Rodrigo Lima put them head with a penalty after five minutes, but Igor Rossi levelled three minutes before the break.
Igor Rossi put through his own net in the 72nd minute, though, to give Benfica the win which sent them four points clear of Porto at the top of the table with three games left.
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