Cats come back from two down to draw.
Stephane Sessegnon responded to his manager's pre-match message with a fine goal to earn Sunderland a point against Fulham.
Boss Martin O'Neill had called on the forward to build on a promising performance at West Brom in his previous outing, and the former PSG man struck in style to cap an excellent comeback.
Sunderland were forced to reverse a two-goal deficit after Dimitar Berbatov opened the scoring from the penalty spot before Sascha Riether doubled the hosts' money.
O'Neill's side responded with a penalty of their own – converted by Craig Gardner – before dominating the second half for long spells.
They were grateful to Simon Mignolet, who prevented Berbatov from making it 3-1 before the hosts broke upfield for Sessegnon to score with a glorious drive 20 minutes from time.
And the hosts' comeback made them good value for a point, although they couldn't make it all three despite a late push which featured a penalty appeal for an alleged handball against Phillippe Senderos.
O'Neill opted for an unchanged side and his charges were soon on the offensive, captain John O'Shea nodding Sessegnon's corner into the side-netting within 65 seconds of kick-off.
The early chance was the catalyst for a good start by Sunderland, who instead found themselves behind against the run of play just after the quarter-hour.
Ashkan Dejagah was challenged by Gardner and was felled in the box, giving Fulham a penalty which Berbatov dispatched in typically ice-cold fashion to open the scoring.
Sunderland, who protested the decision bitterly, struggled for traction in their search to find a response, with Fulham happy to sit and hit on the break.
They did so successfully to fashion a second goal and stun the Stadium of Light 11 minutes before half time.
Bryan Ruiz's driving run had the home defence on the back foot, the overlapping Dejagah's cross was pushed out by Mignolet and the unmarked Riether popped up to touch the ball into the back of the empty net.
The need for a riposte was brought into sharp focus – and O'Neill's side had it with Fulham almost still celebrating.
Danny Graham was pulled back by Senderos as he looked to meet a ball into the box, with the referee pointing immediately to the penalty spot. Gardner wasted little time, hammering the spot-kick high and hard into the net for his seventh goal of the season.
Having been handed a lifeline, Sunderland were suddenly alive and Sessegnon almost levelled before the break but saw his powerful drive well parried by Mark Schwarzer.
The hosts generated an excellent chance within two minutes of the restart as Steven Fletcher poked the ball through to Graham in a scramble, but the striker's low shot was well fielded by Schwarzer.
Alfred N'Diaye whistled a powerful drive just over the bar as Sunderland pressed, but the hosts needed something special – and they got it at both ends of the pitch with 20 minutes to go.
Mignolet denied Berbatov with a key save at close range after a clipped pass released the Bulgarian – and the importance of the intervention was two-fold as Sunderland raced away on the break.
Sessegnon found Johnson whose cross was blocked by Hangeland, but the loose ball ran for Sessegnon to crack a beautiful drive beyond Schwarzer from the edge of the box.
It was a fine way for the Beninese forward to score his fifth goal of the season – and the crowd quickly showed their appreciation for Mignolet's work at the other end, too.
Now the hosts were sniffing a winner, with Johnson seeing a shot deflected wide before Larsson skimmed the side-netting with a long-range blast six minutes from time.
Sunderland saw appeals for a penalty waved away late on, with the hosts claiming that Senderos had handled the ball in a goalmouth scramble.
And in the end, the Black Cats were forced to settle for a return of a single point for their efforts.
- Yellow N'Diaye
- Graham (McClean)
- Riether Yellow
- Hangeland Yellow
- Sidwell Yellow
- Dejagah (Rodallega)
- Duff (Emanuelson)
- Karagounis (Frimpong)