SUNDERLAND became the first team to claim a point at the Etihad Stadium this season – denting title-chasing Manchester City’s perfect record of 15 straight wins.
But the Black Cats would have headed back to the North East knowing it could and should have been all three after holding a 3-1 lead up the 85th minute.
Sunderland – knocked out of the FA Cup in midweek – travelled to Manchester expected to be lambs to the slaughter, but, after withstanding early pressure, took a surprise lead just after the half-hour when Seb Larsson passed a shot into the bottom left-hand corner of Joe Hart’s goal.
Craig Gardner fouled Edin Dzeko in the area in the 41st minute to give City a penalty which Mario Balotelli stroked home.
But Sunderland went into the lead still ahead thanks to a great goal from Nicklas Bendtner three minutes into time added on, powerfully heading home Stephane Sessegnon’s right-wing cross.
They extended their lead in the 55th minute with a wonderfully-worked goal, Larsson tapping home Bendtner’s right-wing cross and they preserved their advantage up until five minutes from time when Balotelli scored his second with a fine individual effort.
Full-back Aleksandar Kolarov then powered in a low rocket from range to level it up.
Sunderland fans can be proud of their team’s performance, but it won’t stop the supporters, or the players, being gutted that they couldn’t hang on and do the double over the world’s richest team.
* Full report and pictures in tonight’s Football Echo