SUNDERLAND and Bolton will have to do it all again after their FA Cup clash at the Reebok Stadium ended 2-2.
The Black Cats were almost the architects of their own downfall with a woeful first half display.
Having trailed 1-0 at the break, things looked bleak for the Wearsiders when the home side went 2-0 up early in the second half.
But the decision to throw Connor Wickham into the fray proved the catalyst for Martin O’Neill’s men as the fought back to earn a replay.
The hosts made a bright start early on, but their balls into the area never materialised into a genuine threat on Simon Mignolet’s goal.
Sunderland boss had made changes for the game, but still fielded a very strong side.
Phil Bardsley was restored to right-back and handed the captain’s armband with Craig Gardner sitting in the hole in place of the injured Stephane Sessegnon.
Bolton take the lead as Carlos Cuellar hands them the opening on a plate.
The Spaniard played a one-two with Mignolet and ignored the Belgian’s instructions to clear, instead passing the ball straight to Chung-Young Lee 20 yards out from goal.
With Mignolet stranded out of position the South Korean had the easiest of tasks, slotting the ball into the net as the Sunderland keeper tried in vain to get back to make a save.
Things got worse for the Wearsiders on 19 minutes Danny Rose appearing to pull a hamstring while trying overlap James McClean.
The on-loan defender hobbled from the field and was replaced by Jack Colback minutes later.
In between Craig Gardner tried his lucky from outside the 18-yard box, but the effort was comfortably saved by Andy Lonergan.
With 23 minutes gone David Vaughan stung the palms of Lonergan with a long-range effort but again the home keeper was equal to the test.
A Seb Larsson corner on 34 minutes almost created a lucky equaliser as Lonergan punched the ball on to the back of a defender before it looped over the bar.
Sunderland were stepping up their pressure on the home goal, but the finishing touch was proving elusive for the visitors.
Lonergan had to be on his mettle on the half-hour mark, tipping away Adam Johnson’s ball in just before it reached the head of the waiting Steven Fletcher at the back post.
The away side continued to put plenty of crosses into the box with one from Johnson on 34 minutes just too high for Fletcher.
More shambolic defending could have proved costly on 36 minutes Titus Bramble heading the ball past the advancing Mignolet as he came to claim.
Bolton were unable to capitalise gaining a corner that came to nothing.
Moments later the hosts were forced to make their first change due to injury Joe Riley going off to be replaced by Tyrone Mears.
Wanderers looked to hit the visitors on the break and were given opportunities as the Black Cats proved wasteful in possession going forward and at the back.
But it was the away side who went closest with their next attack, Fletcher heading just off target.
Bolton’s reply was instant as the broke at pace as another forward move by the Premier League side fell apart, but goalscorer Lee fired well wide of the mark.
At the break, it remained first blood to the home side, and you could imagine that there was some harsh words and home truths dished out in the away dressing room during the interval.
There were certainly some in the stands as the half-time whistle was accompanied by boos from the travelling contingent of around 5,000.
Whatever was said wasn’t heeded as straight after the break the Wearsiders created more problems for themselves.
Trickery by Adam Johnson at the back saw him conceded a corner, and when the resultant flag-kick was only half punched clear by Mignolet Bolton put it back into the danger area, Marvin Sordell getting the telling touch to put his side 2-0 up.
The Wearsiders almost reduced the deficit moments later, but Lonergan did well to deny Fletcher, whose header looked bound for the net.
The Scot looked on in dismay, and was even more crestfallen in the moments that followed when his penalty appeal was waved away.
To be fair to referee Michael Jones at first glance it would have been a very soft one if given.
Chances were at a premium for both sides, and Fletcher may have felt he should have done better when he headed over the bar on 56 minutes.
When Carlos Cuellar limped off injured two minutes later it compounded a miserable afternoon for the Spaniard.
Instead of replacing like for like Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill went on the offensive, the move paying dividends almost immediately.
Connor Wickham came of the bench to replace Cuellar to make a two-man attack.
Gardner reverted back to right-back with Bardsley moving inside to centre-back.
Wickham provided the inspiration as the striker’s first act of the game was to win a corner.
Lonergan pulled off a great save to deny Fletcher, but at the cost of a second corner.
This time Botlon didn’t clear. The ball dropped to Johnson whose effort looped up to find Wickham and with his second attempt the frontman found the net.
Bolton brought on one-time Sunderland target Kevin Davies to replace goalscorer Sordell on 64 minutes, but it was the visitors that were asking the questions in attack.
Although a sustained spell of pressure ended disappointingly when Johnson flashed a shot high over the bar.
The Black Cats continued to press while Wanderers’ defensive efforts became more and more frantic.
However, it was the hosts who almost added to their tally on 67 minutes - Martin Petrov firing wide across the face of goal.
Sunderland were soon back on the attack though, and Lonergan once more proved Fletcher’s nemesis, getting down well to push away the striker’s shot.
The game was becoming more and more stretched as both sides looked to add to their tally.
Sunderland won another corner which looked to have come to nothing as it dropped to Gardner on the edge of the box.
But the Black Cats star rifled an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net to level matters.
Darren Pratley became the first man to go in the book when he felled Gardner 35 yards out from goal on 79 minutes.
The Sunderland man got up to take the free-kick, but this time his powerful drive was way off target.
Bolton brought on Chris Eagles for David N’Gog moments later as they looked to try to get back on the front foot.
But the momentum stayed with the Wearsiders, who went close in the minutes that followed.
A low cross from Johnson was edged just past the post from a group of Bolton defenders, before another effort was cleared off the line by Lee after a scramble, and seconds later Wickham’s flick on drifted just wide of the far upright.
Neither side could find the breakthrough they desperately sought, although Petrov did try with an effort which was comfortably saved by Mignolet.
In the dying seconds Bramble was just off target as the Black Cats looked to nick it.
Instead the Wearsiders had to settle for a replay back on their home turf in 10 days time.
Bolton: Lonergan, Riley (sub Mears 38), Knight, Ricketts, Alonso, Pratley, Andrews, Lee, Petrov, Sordell (Davies 64), Ngog (sub Eagles 80). Subs not used: Bogdan, Ream, Spearing, Lester.
Sunderland: Mignolet, Bardsley, Rose (sub Colback 19) Cuellar (sub Wickham 58), Bramble, Larsson, Gardner, Vaughan, Johnson, McClean, Fletcher. Subs not used: Westwood, Campbell, McFadden, Kilgallon.
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