Andre Gray’s unforgiving treble punished Sunderland and sealed three points for Burnley as the Black Cats limped into 2017 battered and bruised.
Lamine Kone and Victor Anichebe both succumbed to injury during the first 45 minutes as the Clarets entered the break 1-0 up, with Gray pouncing on a defensive mix-up after Kone’s injury forced a reshuffle at the back.
And it didn’t get any better for the Black Cats who only had themselves to blame.
Untroubled at the back, Burnley strolled forward with ease and Gray gobbled up the opportunities, brushing off Papy Djilobodji before rounding the stranded Vito Mannone to add his second.
Within two minutes last season’s Championship Player of the Season completed his hat-trick following further suspect defending from the Black Cats, with Ashley Barnes scoring from the spot before Jermain Defoe struck a late consolation.
With a return to action against Liverpool under 48 hours away, it is very much to the drawing board for David Moyes and his backroom team.
Sunderland made three changes to the side that tasted defeat at Old Trafford on Boxing Day as Vito Mannone, John O’Shea and Adnan Januzaj were named in the starting XI.
Jordan Pickford and Jason Denayer missed out as Didier Ndong dropped to the bench, with Javier Manquillo, Jack Rodwell and Steven Pienaar named in the squad after returning from injury.
The Black Cats fashioned the first opportunity with just three minutes on the clock as Fabio Borini fed Victor Anichebe, but the real chance came after Burnley thwarted the striker as the ball dropped to Januzaj on the edge of the box.
With time and space on his side the Belgian took aim and fired, but his effort sailed high and wide as the Clarets went unpunished.
Former Luton Town forward Andre Gray mustered the home side’s first opportunity moments later, but he also failed to find the target as a 25-yard effort screamed over the top.
Sunderland continued to come forward and Sean Dyche’s side struggled with the versatility shown by the Black Cats’ front four, with Januzaj and Borini finding pockets of space as Anichebe and Jermain Defoe ran the lines.
Anichebe, 28, was next to threaten but after driving to the byline his driven ball whistled across the face of goal before Borini’s follow-up was plucked out of the air by Heaton.
Rallied by the home support, Burnley managed to find a grip on proceedings and by the 20-minute mark they were in control as Sunderland dropped deep and struggled to find an outlet.
Gray remained at the centre of the action and it took a fine intervention from Lamine Kone to deny the Burnley speedster, with the Ivorian chasing back and forcing the striker wide before his effort crashed into the side netting.
Kone subsequently skidded into the advertising hoardings and despite briefly continuing he was soon forced off, with Gabon international Ndong slotting into midfield as O’Shea dropped into defence.
And it proved costly for the Black Cats.
The new partnership forged between Djilobdoji and O’Shea suffered an immediate breakdown in communication as both came, and missed, a routine ball forward, allowing Gray to stroll through on goal before burying the ball past Mannone.
Within minutes it could have been 2-0 as the Black Cats failed to regroup and Matt Lowton’s long ball into the box caused confusion, but this time they survived as the unmarked Stephen Ward diverted it back across the face of goal and to safety.
Sunderland’s first-half misery was further enhanced before the break as Anichebe pulled up clutching his hamstring, with the Nigerian immediately exiting the field of play as the Lads ended the opening period with ten men.
Pienaar was selected to replace Anichebe who unsurprisingly didn’t emerge for the second half, but it did little to turn the tide of the game as Burnley pushed forward with intent.
Within two minutes of the restart Dyche’s side could and should have doubled their lead, but a fine one-on-one stop from Mannone denied Gray before Djilobdoji heroically denied Scott Arfield who had the goal at his mercy.
Sunderland responded with a tame foray forward as Borini volleyed well wide, but within minutes it was game over for the Black Cats as another defensive error gifted the Clarets a second.
Moyes’ side once again failed to deal with a hopeful ball forward as Djilodbodji opted, and failed, to foul Gray who shrugged him off before easing past Mannone and slotting the ball into an empty net.
And their woes continued two minutes later as Pienaar slipped on the ball before static defending allowed Burnley to pass their way to Gray who once again made no mistake to complete his first Premier League hat-trick.
A Larsson error saw Burnley add their fourth before the 70-minute mark as Barnes converted from the spot following the Swede’s foul on Arfield, but the Black Cats continued to battle and reduced the arrears soon courtesy of Defoe’s well-taken finish.
Unfortunately, it was too little, too late for Sunderland as 2016 ended with a whimper.
Burnley: Heaton, Lowton, Keane, Mee, Ward, Defour (Gudmundsson 68), Marney, Arfield, Boyd, Gray (Vokes 77), Barnes (Tarkowski 84).
Subs not used: Bamford, O’Neill, Robinson, Darikwa.
Sunderland: Mannone, Jones, Kone (Ndong 24), Djilobodji, O’Shea (Love 72), van Aanholt, Larsson, Januzaj, Borini, Anichebe (Pienaar 46), Defoe.
Subs not used: Mika, Manquillo, Rodwell, Khazri.