Sunderland slipped into the Premier League relegation zone despite collecting a point in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Stoke City.
With Leicester City recording a fourth win in succession against Burnley at Turf Moor, Dick Advocaat’s side dropped into the bottom three for the first time this season as a result of their stalemate at the Britannia Stadium.
A frantic start saw Connor Wickham open the scoring for Sunderland inside the first minute with his fifth goal of the season, but Stoke were level before the half-hour through Charlie Adam.
Having held off Stoke prior to half-time, Sunderland threatened to grab the initiative after the break but failed to convert any of their chances, with Billy Jones guilty of missing the best opportunity after 63 minutes.
Mame Biram Diouf and Peter Crouch could have snatched three points for the hosts in the closing stages, only to be denied by resilient defending.
Even the introduction of the fit-again Peter Odemwingie – for his first Stoke appearance since August – could not bring a winner, yet Sunderland face an anxious end to the season even though they claimed a share of the spoils.
Dick Advocaat had called for a reaction from Sunderland – who left out Adam Johnson after he was charged with three counts of sexual activity with a girl under the age of 16 and an additional count of grooming on Thursday – following their defeat to Crystal Palace, and he got just that as Wickham opened the scoring after 58 seconds.
A low cross from Will Buckley should have been claimed by Asmir Begovic, but he fumbled the ball and Wickham pounced from close-range.
Stunned at being behind, Stoke responded well with Adam, in for Glenn Whelan as their only change from last weekend’s win over Southampton, Marko Arnautovic and Jonathan Walters all going close.
While the hosts appeared in control, they were nearly two behind midway through the half as Philipp Wollscheid misjudged a long pass forward and the loose ball dropped to Jermain Defoe, but his strike rippled the side-netting.
Having already missed two chances in the half, Adam finally brought Stoke level with a stunning strike, the Scot lashing the ball into the top-right corner from just inside the area after 27 minutes.
Stoke could have gone into the break ahead as Adam was presented with another opportunity, but his effort whistled over the crossbar.
The visitors then started the second period brightly, but Defoe shot straight at Begovic after receiving a pass into his stride from Wickham.
Wave after wave of Sunderland attacks followed, with Jones wasting a glorious chance as the full-back raced into the penalty area before seeing his close-range effort pushed wide by Begovic.
The visitors were grateful to Costel Pantilimon for keeping them level six minutes later as a free-kick found its way to Diouf, the goalkeeper getting something on the striker’s volley from five yards.
Substitute Crouch was also denied late on by a Jack Rodwell block as Stoke – closing in on their highest points tally in the Premier League – pushed in vain for a winner.
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