Attendance: 41, 518
Sunderland were left to ponder what might have been following a goalless draw against Burnley, with the Black Cats spurning several key chances against the Clarets.
David Moyes’ men were forced on the back foot for much of the opening 45 minutes, but they were galvanised during the second-half and took the game by the scruff of the neck.
The first chance fell to Fabio Borini as a sumptuous through ball from Bryan Oviedo sent the Italian through on goal, but he failed to test Tom Heaton who denied Adnan Januzaj moments later.
Borini should have done better but a further chance – the golden one – fell to Billy Jones on 63 minutes, with Seb Larsson’s first-time cross picking out the unmarked defender at the back post.
The connection was clean and the goal was at his mercy, but Jones headed wildly off target and it proved pivotal as the frustrated Black Cats were forced to settle for a point.
David Moyes made two changes from the side that lost 2-0 to Manchester City a fortnight ago, with Jason Denayer and Jack Rodwell named in the starting XI.
Lamine Kone missed out due to an injury sustained in training, with Didier Ndong dropping to the bench as England international Jermain Defoe led the line.
An electric atmosphere greeted the sides as they emerged from the tunnel ahead of kick-off, with an air of expectancy whirling around Wearside ahead of a truly seismic encounter.
Immediately, the die was cast.
Defoe’s menacing movement set the tone as the intensity and noise levels cranked up to 11, but the opening chance came at the other end as Andre Gray crashed to the canvas before Jordan Pickford punched the resulting free-kick to safety.
A further half-chance fell to Defoe on five minutes as Adnan Januzaj pulled the strings, but the Clarets fired another warning shot moments later as Pickford lost his bearings – and ended up in no man’s land – before his blushes were spared by the wasteful Ashley Barnes.
With the game balanced on the edge of a knife, there was an ominous feeling within the Stadium of Light that the opening goal would be key.
And it almost arrived with ten minutes played.
A fine touch from Gray sent him clear down the right, and, as the Clarets doubled up on Jones, Stephen Ward raced into space before flashing the ball across goal where George Boyd was unable to connect.
Anxiety crept into Sunderland’s play as the opening 45 minutes continued, but they were able to breath a huge sigh of relief midway through the half as the referee waved play on following a Darron Gibson handball.
It could – and possibly should – have been a penalty.
Sunderland’s best opportunity of the first-half ended up falling to the Irishman as a well-worked corner saw the midfielder arrive bang on time, but his venomous effort whistled narrowly over the top.
And with 42 minutes on the clock Barnes did the same, but the no.10 inexplicably turned the ball wide from just six yards after Scott Arfield’s wayward effort bobbled into his path.
Despite a goalless opening period, the game continued to flow following the restart and when Fabio Borini was sent through on goal, Wearside held its baited breath.
A sigh followed, though, as the Italian failed to wrap his boot around the ball and it nestled into the grasp of Heaton, who remained relatively untested.
Moments later that changed, however, as the England international made a crucial save to ensure parity remained.
Clever play from Defoe led to the openings with the striker’s deep cross picking out Januzaj, but Heaton pushed the ball away to deny the Belgian before Seb Larsson slashed the follow-up wide.
Nevertheless, the flurry of chances lifted the red and white army and as the rain began to fall they rose from their seats and roared on the Lads in their search of an opener.
The Black Cats continued to turn the screw and a barnstorming run from Januzaj led to the game’s best opening on 63 minutes, but, unmarked and just four yards out, Jones failed to find the target.
Januzaj continued to threaten and was next to try his luck as shots peppered Heaton’s goal, but a fine strike from the Belgian shaved the outside of the post as frustration started to grow.
Wahbi Khazri and midfield mainstay Ndong entered proceedings during the latter stages, but for all Sunderland’s grit and guile they were unable to supply an end product – and they paid the price.
Sunderland: Pickford, Jones, Oviedo, Denayer, Larsson (Khazri 77), Rodwell, Borini, O’Shea, Defoe, Gibson (Ndong 70), Januzaj.
Substitutes: Mannone, Djilobodji, Lescott, Manquillo, Honeyman.
Burnley: Heaton, Mee, Boyd (Brady 70), Gray, Lowton, Barnes (Vokes 65), Barton, Keane, Arfield, Hendrick, Ward.
Subs not used: Robinson, Flanagan, Defour, Westwood, Tarkowski.