Di Canio kept Sunderland in the Barclays Premier League last season but that bought him no favour on Sunday evening when the club announced they and the Italian had parted company.
Given that former Celtic player Di Canio was eager to carry on and lift the team off the bottom of the Premier League table, it was clear Sunderland were the instigators of the decision.
The 45-year-old's departure was confirmed a little more than 24 hours after a 3-0 defeat at West Brom.
A statement said: "Sunderland AFC confirms that it has parted company with head coach Paolo Di Canio this evening."
Former Sunderland captain Kevin Ball, currently on the club's coaching staff, steps in to lead the team on a short-term basis, with the club saying a permanent replacement for Di Canio will be announced "in due course".
Bookmakers immediately rated former Chelsea and West Brom manager Roberto Di Matteo as favourite, narrowly ahead of Gus Poyet, previously boss at Brighton.
Di Canio arrived on Wearside amid a blaze of publicity in March as owner Ellis Short took a gamble on the former Swindon boss after deciding to end Martin O'Neill's spell in charge.
It proved a controversial appointment as critics cited reports of his alleged fascist sympathies, prompting the club to make a stout defence of their new manager.
He steered the club to Premier League survival but one point from five games at the start of the current season has convinced Short to make another change.
Sunderland recruited 14 new players during the summer transfer window, several for the first-team squad but others for the development ranks.
But crucially, having already lost loan signing Danny Rose following his return to Tottenham, they sold Simon Mignolet to Liverpool and, on deadline day, Stephane Sessegnon to West Brom. It meant they had lost arguably three of their most effective players.
Even after Saturday's reverse at the Hawthorns, where he spoke to travelling fans from the pitch following the final whistle, Di Canio was remaining upbeat.
He said: "One game, one win, will clean all the players' brains from the problems they have now."
Former Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn, who also played for and briefly managed the club, believes extrovert Di Canio's management style may have been his downfall.
"It's a quick decision; some will say too quick," Quinn told Sky Sports News.
"They're making a quick decision on this again and looking back, the support Paolo Di Canio got in the summer with the players he brought in, I honestly thought he was going to get longer no matter the start.
"If we start to peel the layers off in the coming days and find out what life was like under him from various players, you'll probably see a story that says this was a guy who did things in a totally unique way and by the looks of things the players weren't buying into it."
Roberto Di Matteo
Has been out of work since being sacked as Chelsea boss in November 2012. Started his managerial career at Milton Keynes Dons before joining West Brom. Led the Baggies to promotion to the top flight but was dismissed in February 2011. Gained his big break when he was appointed as Andre Villas-Boas' assistant at Chelsea before becoming caretaker boss when the Portuguese was sacked. Promptly led the Blues to an FA Cup and Champions League double. Became permanent manager in June 2012 but lasted just five months before the axe fell.
Left Brighton in acrimonious circumstances but won many admirers on the south coast for a style of play which led the Seagulls to promotion out of League One and to the Championship play-offs. A former Uruguay international, also enjoyed playing spells with Chelsea and Spurs in England.
Still mocked by many for his disastrous spell in charge of England, McClaren's club record is not without merit. Cut his managerial teeth at Middlesbrough before taking on the Three Lions job which ended in the sack after failing to guide the side to the 2008 European Championship finals. Rebuilt his reputation by leading FC Twente to the Eredivisie title but struggled subsequently at Wolfsburg, Nottingham Forest and in a second spell at Twente.
Left Stoke after a hugely successful seven year spell - his second at the club. Guided the Potters from a mid-table Championship outfit into a formidable Premier League force. Unlikely to be a popular choice given his reputation for long-ball football.