An industrious Sunderland thwarted Tottenham Hotspur at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday evening as David Moyes’ side earned a point against the Premier League title-chasers.
The visitors had the better of the opening exchanges as Harry Kane forced Lamine Kone into a vital interception, but the Black Cats soon settled and their tenacity paid off as chances fell to Jermain Defoe and Fabio Borini.
Vito Mannone was rarely troubled by Spurs who showed plenty of panache on the ball, but Mauricio Pochettino’s side lacked a cutting edge in a final third they were camped in for much of the second period.
Spurs continued to press right until the death as they scampered for a winner, but the Black Cats refused to be beaten and claimed a deserved point to round off a satisfying evening at the SoL.
David Moyes called upon reinforcements ahead of kick-off as Kone and Didier Ndong returned to the starting XI following the Africa Cup of Nations, with new signing Joleon Lescott named on the bench.
Bryan Oviedo and Darron Gibson weren’t eligible to feature following their moves from Everton, but Lynden Gooch was included in the squad for the first time since November after returning from injury.
Sunderland started well but were almost the architects of their own downfall with six minutes played, Jason Denayer’s attempted clearance was charged down by Kane who bore down on goal.
The angle was too tight for the England international to let fly, but he forced Kone into a vital interception by flashing the ball across goal where the defender made a decisive intervention.
It was an early warning sign from title-chasers who continued to assert their dominance on the encounter, but the Black Cats struck back two minutes later as Defoe was freed in the final third.
Spurs recovered well, though, and the striker was forced wide and crowded out before seeing a hopeful effort blocked behind.
Still, the opportunity injected fresh vigour into their play – and the home supporters – with Spurs forced back to deputy stopper Michel Vorm on more than one occasion as the Black Cats relentlessly pressed their counterparts.
Defoe’s know-how paid dividends for a second time on the 20-minute mark as Sunderland broke and he held off Toby Alderweireld, but despite being in acres of space Borini’s touch was wayward and Spurs once again recovered.
Moments later the Italian was provided with a chance to atone as the ball broke into his path – via a handball which went unpunished – and he did well to fire on target, but it was a comfortable stop from Vorm.
And Mannone followed suit with his first save of the game soon after, as Victor Wanyama sent a thumping 25-yard drive towards the corner.
Jack Rodwell was booked before for the break after scything down Moussa Dembele as Spurs looked to counter, but it was another moment that further cranked up the decibels on Wearside.
And former Black Cat Danny Rose, who was a thorn in Billy Jones’ side during the opening exchanges, was forced off before the interval as a fiery opening period came to a close.
Tottenham heaped pressure on the Sunderland defence following the restart but the Black Cats remained strong, with Seb Larsson producing a brilliant block to deny Kane after he turned into space.
Pochettino’s side continued to pile forward with Wanyama heading over at the back post, as the tension continued to grow on and off the pitch with Spurs camped in the final third.
Dele Alli was next to try his luck after controlling the ball in the box, but his effort deflected narrowly over the top before a nervy finale ensued.
And that proved to be that, with Moyes’ men closing out a professional display which oozed optimism ahead of Saturday’s crunch-match at Crystal Palace.
Sunderland: Mannone, Jones, O’Shea, Kone, Manquillo, Denayer, Rodwell, Larsson, Ndong, Borini (Honeyman 72), Defoe.
Substitutes: Mika, Lescott, Pienaar, Love, Januzaj, Gooch.
Tottenham Hotspur: Vorm, Walker, Dier, Alderweireld, Rose (Davies 38), Dembele (Janssen 85), Wanyama, Son (Sissoko 73), Eriksen, Alli, Kane.
Substitutes: Wimmer, Winks, Pau, Carter-Vickers.