John O’Shea’s second-half equaliser rescued a valuable point for 10-man Sunderland as they drew with Stoke City.
After going behind to an early Jonathan Walters goal it looked like being an uncomfortable evening for Paolo Di Canio’s side, and their task was made even harder when Craig Gardner was sent off.
But a spirited second-half fightback saw Sunderland test Asmir Begovic on a number of occasions before getting their reward just after the hour when O’Shea turned in a Sebastian Larsson corner.
Di Canio was forced into one change following the suspension of Stephane Sessegnon, so James McClean was handed a start while Jack Colback replaced Phil Bardsley.
Marc Wilson and Dean Whitehead returned for the visitors in place of Andy Wilkinson and Glenn Whelan, with neither of the players replaced involved in the squad at all.
Stoke took the lead with just nine minutes gone as Walters rose to meet a Charlie Adam corner. The striker’s initial header was blocked but he reacted quickly to pounce on the loose ball to fire beyond Simon Mignolet from five yards.
The early setback sparked the hosts into life but they were unable to test Begovic in the Stoke goal with the chances they created.
Di Canio’s half-time team talk lifted the mood of his players and almost from the restart they were much more positive, Johnson testing Begovic for the first time with a good long-range effort.
After Cameron Jerome had wasted a chance to double Stoke’s lead Sunderland went very close to equalising as O’Shea’s header was cleared off the line by Whitehead.
Larsson’s corner flicked off the head of Whitehead at the front post, O’Shea managed to get ahead of Ryan Shawcross and diverted the ball through the legs of Begovic for his second goal of the season.
As the game appeared to be drifting towards a draw both sides had decent chances to secure all three points.
Whitehead fired a great chance from the edge of the area straight at Mignolet and Danny Rose saw a chance from the edge of the area graze the outside of the post.
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