The full-back blasted the ball past keeper Keiren Westwood from 12 yards on 51 minutes after referee Howard Webb had ruled that Leon Osman had been fouled inside the box, although claims from the home players that he had simply kicked the ground appeared to be borne out by television replays.
Baines’ effort cancelled out Jack Colback’s first senior goal for the Black Cats, a deflected 26th-minute shot against the run of play which galvanised his side as they attempted to win for the third time in manager Martin O’Neill’s four games to date.
Stephane Sessegnon skipped past Sylvain Distin and full-back Tony Hibbert before slipping the ball to the unmarked Colback, whose shot clipped the recovering Frenchman and flew past the helpless Tim Howard.
However, Baines’ equaliser extended Sunderland’s wait for a victory over the Toffees to 15 games, with the visitors unbeaten at the Stadium of Light for a decade.
The game, which was broadcast by the BBC World Service to an estimated audience of 25 million across Africa, very nearly came to a dramatic conclusion when Distin turned Sessegnon’s searching cross into the side-netting.
However, the big talking points as a crowd of 43,619 headed home were the decision which handed Baines his big chance, and Sunderland’s paltry return of just four wins on their own pitch in 2011.
So often this season, the Black Cats have dominated the opening stages of games and failed to take advantage of the chances they have created, a failing which ultimately cost Steve Bruce his job.