Steve Bruce has become the first English Premier League football manager to be sacked this season when Sunderland announced they had parted company with the former Manchester United player.
Bruce joined Sunderland from Wigan Athletic in 2009 and leaves with the north-east club languishing two points above the drop zone.
Bruce guided Sunderland to 13th in his first season in charge and improved on that with a 10th-placed finish in 2010-11.
Assistant manager Eric Black would take charge of the first team duties as the club searches for a new manager.
Former Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill and ex-Fulham manager Mark Hughes are the early favourites with bookmakers.
Bruce, whose last match in charge was a 2-1 home defeat by ex-club Wigan, was hampered by striker Asamoah Gyan making a loan move to Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates in September when the transfer window was already shut.