Mitch Clark scored a late equaliser to rescue a point for ten-man Accrington Stanley and make it five games unbeaten in the league.
The Black Cats have a strong record at the Wham Stadium – three games, three wins prior to the game – but Stanley put on a resolute performance to grab a point in front of a bumper crowd.
Aiden O’Brien opened the scoring for Lee Johnson’s side – his 48th minute strike from outside the box deflecting beyond Toby Savin into the top of the net.
And it got worse for Stanley when they were reduced to ten-men as Ross Sykes saw red in the 76th minute for two bookable offences.
Then, in the 84th minute, Matt Butcher broke forward into the area and side-footed the ball to Clark who had the easy task to put the ball into the empty net for his first Stanley goal.
John Coleman’s two January signings, Rosaire Longelo and Jay Rich-Banguelou, both started on the bench.
Harry Pell came in for the suspended Liam Coyle while Yeboah Amankwah also got the nod to start.
It was an even opening before, in the sixth minute, Savin pulled off a tremendous save to keep out Ross Stewart’s close range header.
Stanley then forced a succession of corners, with Sean McConville unable to find the target, while Lydon Gooch fired straight at Savin at the other end.
The Reds came close on 36 minutes when John O’Sullivan’s neat chip into the area found the head of Colby Bishop and his looping effort was finger-tipped over by Thorben Hoffmann.
In the next attack a header by Sykes across goal was almost converted by Harry Pell from six yards out but Sunderland managed to clear.
There was a big appeal for a penalty when Pell went down in the area but nothing was given by referee James Bell, leaving it goalless at half-time.
Sunderland took the lead just after the break when substitute O’Brien, who had come on at the interval, had a go from outside the area and his effort took a deflection and looped into the top corner of the Stanley goal.
Bishop headed wide from a Michael Nottingham ball forward just after while Ethan Hamilton fired across the goal and narrowly wide as the Reds looked for an equaliser.
Sunderland’s Elliot Embleton sent a free kick over the bar while Stanley midfielder Hamilton had a goalbound effort blocked as the game became end-to-end.
Pell had a good chance on the run but Hoffman got there and then Sykes saw red for a second bookable offence, pulling back Stewart.
Coleman put on both Longelo and Rich-Banguelou and that set up the grandstand finish with Clark’s late leveller.
Stanley: Savin, Amankwah, Sykes, Nottingham, Clark, O’Sullivan (Longelo), Butcher, Hamilton, McConville (Rich-Bangheulo), Pell, Bishop
Subs: Isherwood, Rodgers, Nolan, Morgan, Malcolm
Attendance: 4498 (2148 from Sunderland)
Red (two yellows): Sykes