Aleksandar Mitrovic scored a dramatic late equaliser to earn Newcastle United a 1-1 draw and deny Sunderland a seventh consecutive derby victory.
Sam Allardyce’s men looked like they were on course to strike a major blow in the battle to avoid relegation from the Premier League at St James’ Park, but Mitrovic headed in with seven minutes remaining to end the streak.
Sunderland had taken the lead one minute before half-time when Jermain Defoe scored his 12th league goal of the season with a volley after Newcastle had been unable to deal with a corner.
The hosts struggled for fluency throughout Rafa Benitez’s first home game in charge, but Ayoze Perez had an attempt cleared off the line by Yann M’Vila, before Mitrovic’s late intervention ensured the match finished level.
An end to the astonishing sequence of six straight Tyne-Wear derby wins for Sunderland over their closest rivals keeps both teams in the bottom three with eight matches left to save themselves.
Sunderland sit two points behind Norwich City and Newcastle are three behind, but both sides hold a game in hand over Alex Neil’s men and the Magpies visit Carrow Road after the international break.
Despite Sunderland’s late disappointment, Allardyce has overseen only one defeat in six games. Benitez, meanwhile, will hope to build on a draw which means he has not lost his first home match in charge at any of his last seven clubs.
There were decent chances for both sides in the early stages, with the recalled Defoe firing one shot over and another better opening into the side netting after Jack Rodwell’s cutback.
Rodwell himself had a powerful header saved by Rob Elliot having latched on to Wahbi Khazri’s free-kick, while Andros Townsend – one of two players brought in by Newcastle along with Chancel Mbemba – forced Vito Mannone to parry his long-range strike at the other end.
Jonjo Shelvey shot just wide from a good free-kick opportunity at the edge of the area for Benitez’s side and Khazri did the same for Sunderland from a more ambitious distance.
It was Sunderland who made the breakthrough one minute before half-time when a clever Khazri corner found Fabio Borini, whose powerful shot was repelled by Elliot. Mbemba could only head clear as far as Defoe and the striker converted a first-time left-footed volley from just outside the six-yard box.
Newcastle were almost level at the start of the second half. Townsend’s corner was flicked on by Mitrovic and then steered towards goal by Perez, but M’Vila made a crucial clearance off the goal-line.
An end-to-end derby saw Elliot keep the hosts in it by make a brilliant one-handed save to deny Patrick van Aanholt after Khazri’s determined run into the penalty area created the opening.
Benitez introduced Siem de Jong, Vurnon Anita and Papiss Cisse – the latter returning after three months out – in an attempt to find a leveller, which arrived just as home fans were beginning to lose hope.
Georginio Wijnaldum created the chance with a deep cross from the right, with Mitrovic doing the rest by heading back across goal and into the far corner to send the St James’ Park crowd wild.
Key Opta stats:
– Aleksandar Mitrovic’s goal ended a run of four straight Premier League defeats for Newcastle, and a six-game losing run against Sunderland.
– Jermain Defoe has scored on each of his last three league visits to St James’ Park.
– Newcastle’s last three Premier League goals have come in the 80th minute or later.
– The away side has never lost when scoring first in Premier League Tyne/Wear derbies (W6 D8).
– Mitrovic has scored in three of his last four Premier League starts at St James’ Park.
– Sunderland have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 17 games in all competitions.