Johnson strike caps Black Cats' comeback.
Adam Johnson blasted home a super second-half equaliser as Sunderland showed their fighting spirit once again to cancel out a two-goal deficit against Southampton.
The visitors were ahead through Jay Rodriguez inside four minutes and it looked like the Black Cats had a mountain to climb when Dejan Lovren nodded in just after the half-hour.
But Fabio Borini made a vital breakthrough with his fourth goal of the season just a minute later, before that man Johnson blasted a 71st-minute effort into the roof of the net to secure a share of the spoils.
The strike was Johnson’s fourth in two games following his hat-trick in the win at Fulham with the winger coming up trumps again, also adding an assist for Borini's goal.
Despite trailing by two goals to an impressive Southampton side, Sunderland refused to admit defeat and the way they responded with two clinical finishes will be another big plus point for Gus Poyet.
The head coach has now seen his side lose just one of their last 10 games in all competitions and they showed they were bang up for the fight once again.
Poyet made two changes to the team which won 4-1 at Fulham, with Jack Colback and Steven Fletcher missing out to accommodate Seb Larsson and Jozy Altidore.
But the hosts got off to a difficult start with the visitors taking the lead after just four minutes.
Rodriguez found some space on the edge of the area and took a couple of touches to settle a bouncing ball down before dispatching a fine low finish past Vito Mannone and into the corner of the net.
With Southampton enjoying plenty of possession, Sunderland struggled to get going and Jack Cork came close with an ambitious 45-yard lob which cleared the crossbar after he picked up on a hurried Mannone clearance.
The visitors should have doubled their lead 21 minutes in as Morgan Schneiderlin knocked the ball into the path of Rickie Lambert to the right of goal, but the striker pulled his angled drive inches past the far post with Rodriguez racing in but unable to touch the ball home.
Rodriguez got another sight of goal just before the half-hour, going one-on-one with Mannone but seeing the Italian keeper claim his low shot as he opted for placement over power.
But the visitors did break through two minutes later to take a two-goal lead. A corner from the right arrowed into a dangerous area and Lovren sneaked in front of Wes Brown to scythe a shot into the far corner past an unsighted Mannone.
It seemed a solid lead with the visitors well on top – but Sunderland replied within a minute to claim a key foothold.
Johnson – enjoying some of the best form of his career – was the architect, curling a lovely angled ball into the box for Borini, who controlled, took a touch and beat Artur Boruc with the Saints defence looking for offside.
Borini showed good technique to wrap his foot around the ball and find the corner from a tight angle, having started the move with some neat approach play and a crossfield ball before racing, undetected, into the box.
The timely goal elicited a response from Sunderland, but the hosts couldn’t make further headway before the break and Mannone pulled off a good save to claw away a curling free-kick from Lambert in injury time.
Sunderland looked brighter at the start of the second half but the visitors remained dangerous and Mannone fielded long-range efforts from Luke Shaw and Adam Chambers before denying Rodriguez on the break just before the hour.
The Italian was busy, also stopping Jose Fonte’s header from a corner at close range and going full stretch to tip away a powerful effort from Shaw.
Poyet made his move just after the hour, introducing Colback and Craig Gardner off the bench in place of Larsson and Lee Cattermole.
The hosts thought they were level moments later when Borini raced clear to finish well past Boruc, but the Italian’s celebrations were cut short by an offside flag, with the assistant referee making the correct decision.
The ball was in the net again 19 minutes from the end – and this time it counted.
Ki’s crossfield pass was helped on by Gardner to Johnson who did the rest, surging past Shaw on the outside and lashing an unstoppable shot through the hands of Boruc and high into the roof of the net.
It was an emphatic finish bursting with confidence from the winger, who has now scored five goals in his last four games and seven overall this season.
Searching for a winner, Sunderland threw on Fletcher and he came close just two minutes later as Gardner’s shot was blocked and ran for the Scottish striker, who couldn’t force the ball home from a tight angle.
Johnson – looking to get forward at every opportunity - also saw a low drive from the right-hand edge of the box saved by Boruc.
Proceedings were delayed late on as both Lovren and sub Gaston Ramirez – both injured in separate incidents – were stretchered from the field in some pain in the final few minutes of normal time.
Seven minutes were added on for stoppages, but a header from Marcos Alonso, gathered by Boruc, was as close as the hosts came as they were left to reflect on a hard-earned point.
- Larsson (Colback)
- Yellow Cattermole (Gardner)
- Yellow Ki
- Altidore (Fletcher)
- Lovren (Yoshida)
- Lallana (Ramírez)
- Do Prado
- Ramírez (Ward-Prowse)