Sunderland 1-1 Portsmouth
Sunderland and Portsmouth played out a draw at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, leaving Barnsley in pole position in the battle for promotion.
Tom Flanagan’s early header gave the Lads a dream start on Wearside, but Pompey struck back through Jamal Lowe midway through the opening period.
A feisty encounter throughout, Sunderland surged forward late on with Max Power forcing a flying save before Will Grigg agonisingly struck the post.
But, frustratingly, there was no late drama, and the result leaves the Lads six points adrift of the top two with two games remaining.
Jack Ross made one ahead of the showdown, as Flanagan replaced Jimmy Dunne in the starting XI.
Back at the Stadium of Light, James Vaughan led the line for Pompey.
A cauldron of noise awaited the players and Sunderland almost got off to the perfect start, as Lewis Morgan’s spectacular bicycle kick crashed against the post.
But just like the SoL, the visitors were rocking, and the opener arrived on eight minutes!
Power’s menacing free-kick was met by Flanagan, and the centre back cushioned a header beyond Craig MacGillivray and into the corner.
Sunderland continued to press as both sides thundered into challenges, with George Honeyman and Nathan Thompson both cautioned early on.
However, a bright start turned to dust on 24 minutes, as Pompey turned the tables and levelled through Lowe.
Protests followed as red and white shirts pleaded that the ball exited play before being put into the box, but the goal stood, and parity was restored.
Close calls followed for the Black Cats, as Ben Close’s lobbed effort bounced wide before Ronan Curtis’ well-taken finish was chalked off due to a foul on McLaughlin.
The pendulum swung again before the break – Cattermole volleyed wide and McGeady menaced – but it remained level at the interval.
Sunderland continued to turn up the heat following the restart, with Morgan’s long-range drive stinging the palms of MacGillivray.
With 30 minutes on the clock, Chris Maguire entered the fray.
The forward forced a comfortable save shortly after, as the game remained on a knife edge, and he unlocked the Pompey defence with 12 minutes remaining, only for MacGillivray to tip Power’s fizzing effort over the top.
Sunderland continued to search for a winner, but when the moment arrived to snatch three points, a stunning save knocked Grigg’s effort against the post to ensure it ended level at the SoL.
Sunderland: McLaughlin, Ozturk, Flanagan, O’Nien (Matthews 90), Oviedo, Cattermole, Power, Honeyman (Maguire 60), McGeady, Morgan (Grigg 69), Wyke.
Subs not used: Ruiter, Gooch, Leadbitter, Dunne.
Portsmouth: MacGillivray, Brown, Thompson, Clarke, Burgess, Naylor, Close, Lowe, Pitman, Curtis (Evans 66), Vaughan (Hawkins 56).
Subs not used: Bass, Haunstrup, Walkes, Morris, Solomon-Otabor.