The pair have been left reeling and devastated by Darren Bent's betrayal and although they are insistent they have not yet accepted Aston Villa's bid, it is a question of when, not if.
The striker was at a Midlands hotel last night hoping to complete his medical, something which angered Sunderland. Bent handed in his transfer request within two hours of playing in the 1-1 Wear-Tyne derby draw, and celebrating partner Asamoah Gyan's injury-time equaliser in chaotic scenes.
Striking out: Bent has enjoyed his time at Sunderland but looks set for a switch to Villa
He did the same in August when, he flirted with Turkish clubs but Sunderland fended off interest and offered him more money.
One of the most popular players in the current squad, who is serenaded every week, Bent has embraced the North East and, as a Twitter obsessive, frequently speaks of his love for Sunderland and its people.
He has had some difficulties, however.His mother was racially abused by a Sunderland fan at Wigan lastseason, his car was pelted by Newcastle supporters after the Octoberderby debacle and he has never hidden his distaste for criticism onwebsite message boards.
Enlarge The level of antagonism towards him last night suggests his career at the Stadium of Light is well and truly over.
Although the 26-year-old has been indifferent for weeks, and looked out of sorts as Bruce has tried to use Danny Welbeck and Gyan in a three-man frontline, the Sunderland manager has persevered with Bent and reassured fans he had faith in him.
'Class is permanent,' he said after Bent missed two chances in the FA Cup defeat by League One Notts County last week.
Perhaps the offer of £70,000 a week, a wage rise of £35,000, may have helped turn Bent's head, but Sunderland are still disappointed he has decided to walk out on their best season for more than a decade.
Club sources said last night Bruce, an admirer of Villa's Stewart Downing, has 'several irons in the fire'.
A permanent deal for Welbeck will not be accepted by Manchester United and, just to add to his woes, Bruce has been told the striker is out for six weeks.
He has already been linked with fresh moves for Spurs forwards Robbie Keane and Roman Pavlyuchenko, but, like his chairman and supporters, he must first come to terms with the loss of a player who seemed to have established himself at the club.
Another option for Bruce as a ready-made replacement for Bent is Cardiff 's Jay Bothroyd. Determined to plug the gap up front before their next game, Sunderland have edged ahead of North East rivals Newcastle in the race to sign the 28-year-old marksman.
The Championship side are eager to hang on to their attacking spearhead but, with his contract running out at the end of the season, they may be hard pressed to resist a bid that could reach £3million. Sunderland star Darren Bent on verge of shock £24m switch to Aston VillaBlack Cats vow to boot out thugs after crowd violence erupts in derby showdown with NewcastleFan alleged to have shoved Harper 'tried to apologise' in visit to Newcastle training groundAll the latest Sunderland news, features and opinion
Explore more:People: Jay Bothroyd, Darren Bent, Steve Bruce, Robbie Keane, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Stewart Downing, Niall Quinn Places: Newcastle, Cardiff