The Black Cats sit one point above the Premier League relegation zone with seven games left after a 1-0 defeat by Manchester United on Saturday. And whilst Sunderland are without a win in eight league matches, during which they have picked up only three point.
FTD's John Booth said: 'O'Neil has a proven track record second to none. The question any owner has to ask is: can I get a better manager to do the job and it would be a surprise if any manager can have a major impact with so little time left. Neighbours Newcastle found out to their cost wen bringing in Aland Shearer five seasons ago in a similar position - they were relegated.'
Sunderland's decision to part company with manager Martin O'Neill is a shock in any context - not least in its timing.
It was thought summer would be the time to reflect on his position but the move to seek a new manager with only seven games remaining and with Sunderland now in freefall is a sign of the fear of the drop which is now gripping Wearside.
The view has been shared by football figures across the country:Former Sunderland player, Kilbane told the BBC: "I'm very surprised. It's the wrong decision at the wrong time.
"I doubt if a manager can come in now and really change things around until the end of the season."
"It's a personal and professional blow for Martin O'Neill. In 20 years as a league manager, on either side of the border, with six clubs, he has never been sacked. He's a very, very proud man. This will hit him; this will cut him." he added: "As a whole, they've struggled this season. They've had a few injury problems which have not helped their cause.
"Now they've made the change and you've got to respect the owners for doing that, but I don't think it's the right decision to make.
"I think they should have continued with Martin O'Neill until the end of the season and tried to establish themselves in the Premier League, but this puts everything back up in the air again."
There has been general shock if you look at the tweets around:
England legend Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) sees it as a chance to plug Match of the Day: “This is the reason MOTD is live. In case of a story like O’Neill’s. First time I can ever remember something happening on a Saturday night.”
Former Sunderland star Michael Gray (@mickygray33) is surprised by the dismissal: “WOW Martin O’Neill sacked….!!! #shocked”
Ex Black Cats striker Michael Chopra (@MichaelChopra10) reckons Sunderland are heading in one direction: “All happening at Sunderland looking forward to playing against them next season in the championship #1pointfromrelegationzone. No manager no Fletcher, no Cattermole and Danny graham is a Geordie #cantwaitfor14/4/2013 #shouldbefun#geordies”
Stoke City striker Michael Owen (@themichaelowen) was still shocked by the sacking despite Sunderland’s form: “Surprised Martin O’Neill has been sacked despite their recent run of results. Starting to get tight at the bottom after Wigan’s win today.”
Former Norwich striker Darren Huckerby (@hucks6dh6) wonders who will be courageous enough to rescue Sunderland: “Bold move by Sunderland, who’ll take the job with 7 games to go? #BeatTheDrop”
Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) is asking the same question: “Martin O’Neill sacked by Sunderland….who next to manage them??”
Ex-Sunderland goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen (@TSorensen1) wasn’t a fan of O’Neill: “Surprised about the sacking of O’Neill even though I have never been a fan of his. Hopefully it gets my old club back on track.”
Earlier in the day,there was no hint of an exit for 61-year-old O'Neill in Sunderland chairman Ellis Short's programme notes before the game against the Premier League leaders.
"Of course, there is nobody that is happy with our current position and the way our season is going," the American wrote. "The reality is that we have a fight on our hands.
"But right now, it is important for us all to be on the same side and get behind the team. Not being together will not help us to get results, so let's stand shoulder to shoulder and give the team our full support."
Northern Irishman O'Neill took over from Steve Bruce almost 16 months ago, leading Sunderland to seven wins in his first 10 fixtures to ease any relegation fears on their way to a 13th-placed finish.
The former Wycombe, Norwich, Leicester, Celtic and Aston Villa boss looked to build on those solid foundations by signing England winger Adam Johnson and Scotland striker Steven Fletcher last summer.
Results did not follow, however, and the Black Cats fell to 16th place in the table following their latest defeat, which occurred without their top scorer Fletcher and captain Lee Cattermole after the injured pair were ruled out for the season.
O'Neill leaves Sunderland with a record of 16 wins from 55 Premier League matches, but the big question now is - who will want to take over with relegation looming?