The Magpies have been relegated for the second time in six years.
The Magpies' Premier League season had seemed to have enjoyed a new lease of life following the appointment of Rafael Benitez, whose arrival renewed optimism on Tyneside after a truly miserable first eight months in charge for Steve McClaren.
In his first nine games, Benitez managed two wins, three defeats and four draws in a run of form which prompted the belief that the great escape was on, but Saturday's 0-0 draw at Aston Villa - who brought an 11-match losing streak into the game - plunged their survival hopes into disarray, before the Black Cats ruthlessly went about their business.
On Thursday morning, managing director Lee Charnley apologised to the club's supporters, suggesting he and everybody else at the club was "devastated" (The Guardian) by their demotion - the club's second relegation in six years.
Charnley is not a very popular figure at St James's Park, and Don Hutchison has challenged him to walk away if he was truly sorry.
IF YOU ARE “TRULY SORRY” then RESIGN……. pic.twitter.com/eXgkiVIitg— Don Hutchison (@donhutch4) May 12, 2016
The big question now is whether the club can keep Benitez. Many of the fans would love to see him mastermind their escape from the Championship next term, but it remains to be seen if a Champions League-winning manager of his vintage would take on that role.