JACK COLBACK rescued a point for Sunderland after a dramatic last-gasp leveller at fellow strugglers Cardiff City.
But Sunderland’s comeback from two goals down threatened to be overshadowed by events off-the-field with Fabio Borini taken to hospital at half-time after suffering from a sickness illness.
Thankfully, news quickly emerged afterwards that the on-loan Liverpool striker was on the mend.
Sunderland began the game in dreadful fashion and fell behind in the sixth minute when Jordon Mutch’s shot was deflected off Modibo Diakite and beat Vito Mannone at the near post.
Despite that poor opening, Gus Poyet’s side should have been level before the interval, with Jozy Altidore spurning a golden opportunity on the rebound with the goal at his mercy.
Ex-Sunderland striker Fraizer Campbell then doubled Cardiff’s advantage which looked to have sealed the victory for the Bluebirds.
But the Black Cats sparked a late rally when Steven Fletcher netted his first goal since October before Colback’s deflected shot secured a point with just 10 seconds remaining of injury time.
Gus Poyet made three changes from the side which won at Everton, with Andrea Dossena, Emanuele Giaccherini and Jozy Altidore all included.
Ondrej Celustka, Jack Colback and Steven Fletcher were the players to miss out, while there was no place on the bench for the ill Adam Johnson.
Caretaker Cardiff boss David Kerslake also made three changes, with Declan John, Kim Bo-Kyung and Gary Medel coming in for Andrew Taylor, Peter Odemwingie and Aron Gunnarsson.
Former Sunderland striker Fraizer Campbell led the line for the Bluebirds.
Jordon Mutch should have done much better in the fourth minute when Craig Noone crossed from the right and the midfielder met the ball seven yards out, but directed his header over the top.
Two minutes later, Mutch did find the net as the Black Cats conceded for the first time in four Premier League games.
Valentin Roberge was caught in possession by Fraizer Campbell and Mutch pounced on the loose ball before bursting towards the area and hitting a right-footed shot which deflected off Modibo Diakite and beat Vito Mannone at the near post.
Mannone was called into action in the 13th minute when he tipped Kim Bo-Kyung’s angled drive over the top after Noone laid it off to the South Korean on the edge of the area.
Cardiff went close again in the 28th minute when Mutch crossed from the right and Campbell got ahead of Modibo Diakite, but sent his diving header wide of the far post.
Against the run of play, Sunderland should have drawn level in the 32nd minute.
Ki unleashed a shot from the left-hand side of the area which was deflected and just kept out by David Marshall.
The ball came straight out to Jozy Altidore, two yards out with the goal at his mercy, but he couldn’t control his effort on the rebound and it bounced harmlessly wide.
Three minutes later, Fabio Borini went close when he curled a right-footed shot towards the far corner from the edge of the area, which Marshall managed to push away low to his left.
Borini was denied by the Cardiff stopper again three minutes before the interval after the on-loan Liverpool striker met Phil Bardsley’s pull-back from the right.
The Italian made good contact with his cushioned half-volley from 15 yards out, but Marshall did well to push the ball around the post.
HALF-TIME Cardiff 1 Sunderland 0
Cardiff doubled their advantage in the 58th minute when Mutch burst beyond three Sunderland players down the left-hand side of the area and crossed for the unmarked Campbell to knock it into the net from four yards out.
Lee Cattermole went desperately close to pulling one back in the 63rd minute when he met Seb Larsson’s low corner from the right with a half-volley, 12 yards out.
Cattermole connected well with his right-foot, but saw his effort drift agonisingly inches over the top.
Sunderland were given hope with seven minutes to go though when Giaccherini delivered an inswinging cross from the left and Steven Fletcher beat the offside trap to stab the ball beyond Marshall.
In the 88th minute, substitute Jack Colback drifted a low shot two yards wide from the edge of the area.
Moments later, Fletcher had a golden opportunity when he chested down Craig Gardner’s ball over the top, but couldn’t get enough power on his shot and it went straight at Marshall.
In stoppage time, Roberge saw his half-volley turned around the post by Marshall after letting fly from the right-hand side of the area.
But then at the death, Ki’s cross from the left struck Roberge and came back out to Colback, 15 yards out, whose left-footed shot deflected off Steven Caulker into the top corner.
FULL-TIME Cardiff 2 Sunderland 2
CARDIFF: Marshall, John, Caulker, Turner, Theophile-Catherine, Medel, Whittingham, Kim (Gunnarsson 78), Mutch, Noone (Cowie 71), Campbell (Cornelius 82). Subs not used: Lewis, Hudson, Odemwingie, Maynard. Booked: Mutch (1)
SUNDERLAND: Mannone, Bardsley, Roberge, Diakite, Dossena, Cattermole (Colback 74), Larsson (Gardner 74), Ki, Giaccherini, Borini (Fletcher 46), Altidore. Subs not used: Cabral, Celustka, Ba, Pickford. Booked: Cattermole (19), Bardsley (60), Campbell (68)
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