Late goal rescues derby point.
Stuart Vose at the Stadium of Light
It was derby drama all the way at the Stadium of Light as Sunderland netted a late equaliser against rivals Newcastle to maintain their unbeaten home record.
Yohan Cabaye opened the scoring after just three minutes at the Stadium of Light before Cheick Tiote was dismissed midway through the first half.
Sunderland dominated from that point onwards but couldn't break through until Demba Ba headed into his own net five minutes from time.
The game ran a similar pattern to the clash on Tyneside last year, where Sunderland led and had a man sent off before conceding a late leveller.
The hosts had by far the better of the possession and chances following Tiote's dismissal for a high challenge on Steven Fletcher.
But a stubborn Newcastle defence stood firm until Sunderland got their break to finally turn their domination into a breakthrough.
The Black Cats were roared on by a capacity crowd, with the two teams' entrance greeted with a wall of noise and a sea of red and white cards brandished by the home fans.
But their afternoon got off to the worst possible start as the visitors snatched an early lead.
Shola Ameobi's shot from a tight angle was well blocked by Simon Mignolet at the near post, but the rebound ran loose to Cabaye who made no mistake, sweeping the ball home from 12 yards.
The two sides then exchanged chances, with Tim Krul called into action to gather Seb Larsson's low free-kick before Mignolet tipped over an effort from Cabaye.
However, the afternoon took another twist just before the half-hour.
Tiote and Jack Colback tussled for possession and, as the referee blew for a free-kick, the Newcastle man stretched and felled Fletcher with a high challenge.
Referee Mr Atkinson had no hesitation, handing the midfielder a straight red card – meaning each of the last three derbies have now featured dismissals.
Duly boosted, Sunderland began to make inroads and Adam Johnson almost fashioned a 32nd-minute equaliser, curling just wide after Colback's deflected shot dropped into his path.
Then Craig Gardner tried his luck with a free-kick from distance – the ball flashing through a crowd of players and fizzing just wide with keeper Krul scrambling across goal.
Ba cleared the crossbar with an acrobatic overhead kick at the other end, but in the main it was all Sunderland as half-time arrived without the hosts managing to turn their possession into goals.
O'Neill's men continued to press at the start of the second period as Fletcher headed wide before Larsson's dangerous low cross was hacked away by Fabricio Coloccini.
But Newcastle, marshalled by their Argentine captain, organised and put up stubborn resistance as the hosts continued to dominate possession.
James McClean saw a low cross blocked, Larsson tried his luck with a free-kick and sub Louis Saha, playing against his former club, just couldn't stab the ball home after Krul fumbled McClean's cross.
A firecracker contest was showing no signs of letting up with Newcastle almost grabbing a second goal with their only opportunity of the second period.
A raking ball forward found Ba, who had sneaked in behind O'Shea, but the striker lost his footing at the crucial moment as Mignolet advanced.
The Sunderland onslaught resumed, but the ball just wouldn't go in as the hosts poured forward.
Their predicament was summed up somewhat with eight minutes to go when a corner found an unmarked Saha at the back post, only for the striker to fire into the side netting. Half the ground thought it was in.
But then, the breakthrough.
Mike Williamson's foul on Saha gave Sunderland a free-kick, Larsson's delivery was perfect, O'Shea rose highest and his header flew into the net off Ba.
The leveller kicked the atmosphere up another couple of notches as the hosts threw everything at the Magpies in an attempt to conjure up what would have been a sensational winner.
McClean came closest to delivering with a daisy-cutter from the right-hand edge of the box which flashed just past the post when it looked like it might sneak into the far corner.
But Newcastle held out for a point as Sunderland's late show ensured the derby spoils were shared.
- Johnson (Vaughan)
- Sessegnon (Saha)
- Williamson Yellow
- Coloccini (Taylor) Yellow
- Cabaye Yellow
- Ben Arfa (Obertan)
- Tioté Red
- Ameobi (Perch) Yellow