David Moyes' first game in charge of Manchester United against his former club, Everton, ended in disaster as he watched his side fall to a 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford.
It was United's first defeat in 12 games and means they have failed to win in their last three, leaving them ninth in the table and 12 points adrift of table-toppers Arsenal.
The season was always going to be seen as a "transitional period" for the champions after Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement, and the season so far has proven it.
Man Utd's first defeat to Everton at Old Trafford since the first month of the first season of the Premier League simply compounded the misery for Moyes and the defending champions, and the defence of their crown looks over before anyone sits down for Christmas dinner.
What made the evening worse for United was the results from elsewhere.
Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham all won their respective games, which leaves the current champions five points behind the Champions League places.
Now, Man Utd have not looked like title contenders for most of the season, but the loss against Moyes' former club in the manner it happened carries extra meaning.
It was definitive proof that while under Roberto Martinez, Everton has improved dramatically. Under Moyes, United has deteriorated to the point where their best hope is a top-four finish.
It is early in the season, fair enough. Man Utd have recovered a similar gap to win the title in the past, okay. This season is different to the previous campaigns, though, because there is much more competition now to deal with. There is too much quality above United, so a title challenge now is highly unlikely.
Arsenal, despite the season opener against Aston Villa and the blip at Old Trafford, is currently flying with their current squad, and they have the upcoming January window to strengthen further.
Chelsea are second without even hitting top gear and Man City look to be warming up nicely toward their push for the title over Christmas and into the new year.
Then there is Liverpool, which may not have the squad for a final title push but certainly have what it takes to finish in the top four.
Everton is not only playing expansive football under Martinez but is incredibly tough to beat.
Even Spurs, which has faced similar struggles to United, has the squad to turn things round to push for a top four finish. Not to mention Southampton and Newcastle United, two other teams ahead of Man Utd.
Moyes' side face Newcastle next in a crucial fixture, a loss which would take the situation close to a critical point as the season heads into the all important Christmas period.
It is vital for United's top four hopes to survive the cruel winter to stay within touching distance of the Champions League places.
If the team manages to do so, the January transfer window will provide an opportunity for Moyes to strengthen the squad, finally end the pain suffered by fans, invest in a midfielder or two and build a team which can finish in the top four.
Another transfer window like the summer and both Moyes and United will be in serious trouble.
The manager will also have to be sure not to go spending great sums of money too lightly, though. The £27 million Marouane Fellaini is still yet to give any indication he is worth the trouble and money.
Bryan Oviedo's 86th minute winner marked the likely end of Man Utd's title defence. Moyes says his side can turn it around, but whether he says that in belief or just hope we do not know.
The reality is a top four finish is probably the best United can hope for, now.