David Moyes accepts his struggling Sunderland side are already entering must-win territory in their battle to beat the drop.
The Black Cats went down 2-0 to Stoke on Saturday, leaving them with just two points from their opening eight Premier League contests, and Moyes' men are staring at another long season in the lower reaches of the division.
The pattern of recent campaigns has seen the club emerge from relegation battles with their top-flight status intact thanks to late-season surges, yet Moyes concedes that their worrying run of form has to pick up soon with a gap already beginning to develop between themselves and safety.
"Every game for us now is a big game, we're nearly in a must-win situation in every game we go into now," Moyes said.
"There's nearly an individual cup final (in every game), we have to try and win them between now and the end of the season."
The Scot believes the key to surviving such testing times lies with experienced campaigners, many of whom he was without at the bet365 Stadium because of injury.
"You need players with experience and players who have been there and done it more often because I think they can see through and understand the nature of where you are," Moyes claimed.
"We had Didier (Ndong), Paddy (McNair), even Jordan (Pickford), Javier Manquillo, Duncan Watmore, that's a lot of young players in the team.
"The choice was to get young players because I hope they'll get better and eventually be really good players but you try not to use them all in one hit if you can do so. I just think we're probably missing a little bit more experience."
The 2-0 success was only Stoke's first league win of the campaign and it was delivered by a pair of goals from in-form midfielder Joe Allen.
A £13million summer signing from Liverpool, Allen has already scored four times for Mark Hughes' side and his Welsh counterpart thinks he is thriving in a team where his value is appreciated.
"He's impacting the team and having a positive impact on the team and as a consequence players are going to look to him to get on the ball in good areas," Hughes said.
"When that happens you start to get the team following you and you're able to be an important part of the team.
"Maybe he's felt in his time in Liverpool that he didn't get that feeling. Obviously he's playing week-in, week-out now and affecting games in a positive manner. He's in a good place.
"He was voted one of the top European midfield players (at Euro 2016) and rightly so. He's absolutely outstanding and for us to bring him here, we've done a great bit of business.
"Sometimes the stars align and you get an opportunity to bring a player that sometimes you don't think you have an opportunity (to get). We were able to get it over the line and since he's been here he's been a breath of fresh air."