As he paced the technical area, variously shaking his head and his fists, Mick McCarthy cut an extremely familiar figure.
During the season under his charge when Sunderland were relegated from the Premier League with a record low of 15 points, Mick McCarthy was horribly accustomed to swiftly falling behind here.
The old feelings of helpless frustration presumably came flooding back as Wolves quickly conceded a penalty following Segundo Castillo's trip on Darren Bent after getting the wrong side of the striker as the pair tussled for possession. Considering Castillo got a touch on the ball, the visiting fans deemed it a harsh decision but Bent had no hesitation about stepping forward to take the kick.
Although Wayne Hennessy guessed correctly and dived the right way, the Wolves goalkeeper could not divert the ball from its trajectory into the bottom corner. It was Bent's sixth goal since his £10m summer move from Tottenham Hotspur; at this rate he really might squeeze himself back into the England squad.
Wolves spent the remainder of the first half trying to force themselves into the game and might have equalised when Dave Edwards made a headed connection with a Matt Jarvis cross. Steve Bruce is deeply concerned about Sunderland's slapdash approach to defending crosses and set pieces but, even though Anton Ferdinand had been demoted to the bench, the home backline once again suffered a concentration lapse as Edwards was permitted a free header. His effort flew wide, although Andrew Keogh, hovering in the six yard box, might have diverted it beyond Craig Gordon had he not had his legs scythed from under him at the vital moment.
If Sunderland got away with that one, Lorik Cana and Lee Cattermole were not quite managing to assume their customary control of central midfield, and while Hennessy made the odd ill-advised dash off his line and only Michael Mancienne's smart block prevented Cattermole from side-footing Andy Reid's low cross into an unguarded net, Wolves were seeing far too much of the ball for Bruce's liking. Indeed Michael Turner - who, rumour had it, was engaged in a pre-match dressing room altercation with Ferdinand over an iPod - might have conceded a penalty following a foul on Doyle.
Of equal concern to the home fans was the manner in which McCarthy's men were increasingly setting, and sustaining, a vigorous tempo. The first period ended with Sunderland again emphasising their vulnerability to dead balls as Kevin Doyle was allowed plenty of space in which to attack Jarvis's free kick. Again the ball veered slightly off target but Bruce headed down the tunnel looking like a man with much on his mind.
His mood would have improved slightly at the outset of the second half when Steed Malbranque's cross picked out Bent only for the striker to find himself bundled off the ball by Christophe Berra. This time it was a blatant penalty and, by way of variation, Kenwyne Jones took it, sending Hennessy the wrong way to double Sunderland's advantage.
Not that there was any room for home complacency. Anxious to redeem himself, Berra quickly slung in a cross-shot at the other end and could not believe his fortune when Craig Gordon parried it into the path of John Mensah who promptly knocked it into his own net.
Shortly afterwards Wolves drew level. Sunderland conceded an indirect free-kick on the edge of their six yard box after Gordon had been left with no option but to palm Kieran Richardson's brainless and horrendously overhit backpass to safety.
Richardson, newly deployed to left back by Bruce, paid dearly for his lapse. The kick was duly nudged to Karl Henry, and despite his effort being blocked it rebounded to Doyle who rammed it home.
The time had come for Bent and Jones to show precisely why they are such a feared attacking combination. Sure enough when Bent chested down a long ball he laid it off deftly to Jones who, by adroit shifting of his body weight, wrong-footed both Berra and Mancienne before beating Hennessy with a low shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
Suddenly Sunderland were in the ascendancy and from Andy Reid's corner, Turner headed their fourth goal to ensure an unhappy return for McCarthy, whose discomfort was intensified when, following a decent build up featuring Ferdinand and Malbranque, Bent squeezed a shot home courtesy of a deflection off Mancienne.