Steven Fletcher and Jack Colback struck late goals to earn Sunderland a point and stun managerless Cardiff City.
Playing just over 24 hours after Malky Mackay was sacked, Cardiff dominated the opening hour with Jordon Mutch and Fraizer Campbell putting them two goals ahead.
But Sunderland, who were dreadful for the first 45 minutes, rallied late through substitute Fletcher’s strike before a deflected effort by Colback – who had also come off the bench – beat David Marshall in the fourth of five added minutes to make it 2-2 at the final whistle.
The sacking of Mackay has been widely condemned and ensured the spotlight was firmly on the home side, but there were no signs of genuine venom directed towards owner Vincent Tan, right, although there were several pro-Mackay chants and banners in evidence throughout the game.
With the Scot’s lieutenants David Kerslake and former Hibs winger Joe McBride in charge, the Bluebirds players seemed bent on taking out their frustrations at the loss of their popular boss on Sunderland.
Inside a minute Mutch had surged into the box and gone down as Valentin Roberge closed in, although the midfielder was booked for diving as the Sunderland defender withdrew his foot. But Mutch made no mistake in the sixth minute. Roberge was robbed by Campbell and Mutch drove forward to drive the ball beyond Vito Mannone with the help of a deflection off Modibo Diakite.
“That one’s for Malky”, chanted the home support, and the chances kept coming.
Sunderland slowly found a foothold in the game and they could have been level after half an hour but for a horrendous miss by Jozy Altidore. David Marshall pushed away a Ki Sung-Yueng strike and all the Black Cats striker had to do was tap home, but he sliced wide.
Scotland goalkeeper Marshall, one of the stars of Cardiff’s season, then made two superb saves from Fabio Borini as the visitors finished the half strongly.
Gus Poyet sent on Fletcher for Borini at the break but they remained on the back foot and fell further behind in the 58th minute.
Mutch was given far too much room down the left by three Sunderland defenders, and Campbell finished with ease at the far post. Tan marked the goal by performing the club’s ‘Ayatollah’ celebration.
The life seemed to have gone out of the game but Fletcher earned Sunderland a lifeline when he connected at the far post from Emanuele Giaccherini’s cross for his first goal since his strike against Newcastle on 27 October.
It sparked a late onslaught, and Cardiff looked set to hold out until Colback struck to spark delirium in the Sunderland ranks, although the Black Cats remain rooted to the foot of the table.
Meanwhile, Sunderland forward Fabio Borini was treated in hospital when he collapsed after being substituted following complaints of feeling unwell.
Borini was released from hospital after treatment for low blood sugar levels.