Injury-time leveller secures point in South Wales.
Sunderland produced an incredible late turnaround to wipe out a two-goal deficit and claim a point at Cardiff.
Jordon Mutch opened the scoring early on for the hosts, who looked on course for three points when former Black Cat Fraizer Campbell netted against his former club just before the hour.
Having been up against it in the early stages, the visitors dominated the final half an hour and sub Steven Fletcher reduced the arrears from close range seven minutes from time.
Jack Colback picked a perfect moment to net his first goal in almost two years, popping up with a deflected effort in the fifth minute of stoppage time to extend Sunderland's unbeaten run to five games.
The goal, which capped a remarkable turnaround, came after a concerted spell of pressure from the visitors, who made it a return of four points from two away games over Christmas.
With his side playing their second game in three days, Gus Poyet opted to make three changes to the side which beat Everton as Jozy Altidore, Emanuele Giaccherini and Andrea Dossena all returned.
Fletcher, Colback and Ondrej Celustka missed out, though the former played the entire second half after Fabio Borini was forced off through illness.
City parted company with manager Malky Mackay a day before the game but started well and twice came close inside the first five minutes.
Steven Caulker and Mutch both headed wide – the latter from an excellent position – but Mutch atoned for his miss with the opening goal after six minutes.
The former Birmingham midfielder picked up a loose ball and drove towards goal before beating Vito Mannone with a powerful drive which deflected in off the covering Modibo Diakite.
Sunderland then saw Mannone do well to tip Kim Bo-Kyung's rising drive acrobatically over the bar just before the quarter-hour.
Mannone was certainly busy as he held another Caulker header before getting across to tip away Peter Whittingham's free-kick after the Cardiff man tried to catch him out at the near post.
Sunderland struggled to gain traction but almost levelled just after the half-hour with their first chance of the match.
Ki Sung-Yueng did well to get away from the home defence and saw his shot parried by David Marshall into the path of Altidore, who slid the loose ball wide of the post from close range.
Sunderland came close again when Marshall produced a smart save to parry away Borini's curling effort from the edge of the box.
Borini then almost pulled his side level just before the break when Phil Bardsley's low cross from the right dropped into space for the Italian, who hit the ball on the run only to see Marshall make a fantastic save, tipping the ball behind.
Borini – impressive in the first half – was unable to continue due to illness and made way for Fletcher at the break before being taken to hospital as a precautionary measure.
Cardiff then doubled their advantage just before the hour as Campbell struck against his former club in the simplest of fashions.
Mutch got down the left and fired the ball across the face of goal for the striker to tap into an empty net from six yards.
The hosts perhaps thought they'd done enough to secure a fourth home win of the season, but Sunderland responded well and bossed the final half-hour as they looked to turn the game around.
Lee Cattermole blasted a Seb Larsson corner inches over the angle of post and bar, while Marshall saved efforts from both Ki and Altidore from the edge of the box.
Colback and Craig Gardner entered the action as Poyet made a double change 16 minutes from time, replacing Cattermole and Larsson.
Altidore came close again when he flicked a header wide a couple of minutes later, but the visitors kept plugging away and were eventually rewarded via Fletcher's predatory instincts seven minutes from time.
Giaccherini clipped in a cross from the right and Fletcher got ahead of his marker to slide the ball home from the edge of the six-yard box and set up a grandstand finish.
Cardiff were on the rack as the visitors, roared on by more than 1,600 away fans, pushed forward looking for an equaliser.
Subs Gardner and Colback both fired efforts just off target - the latter lashing a shot inches past the post after Diakite made a strong run deep into Cardiff territory.
Gardner then picked out Fletcher with a dinked cross, but Marshall was in the right place at the right time to claim the striker's shot with the home defence caught appealing for offside.
It looked as if the Bluebirds might hold on as Marshall tipped away a superb scythed effort from Valentin Roberge before Bardsley saw a shot blocked and Giaccherini curled wide as Sunderland piled on the pressure.
But Poyet's side just can't be written off and they eventually broke through in the last of five added minutes through Colback.
Ki swung in a hopeful low cross, Roberge produced a neat flick to set up the chance and the midfielder let fly with a shot which pinged off a defender on its way past a helpless Marshall.
Cue bedlam in the dugout and away end as the Black Cats celebrated a late turnaround – and a potentially key point.
- Yellow Kim (Gunnarsson)
- Yellow Mutch
- Noone (Cowie)
- Yellow Campbell (Cornelius)
- Bardsley Yellow
- Borini (Fletcher)
- Larsson (Gardner)
- Cattermole (Colback) Yellow
- Adilson Cabral