WES BROWN was sent off as frustrated Sunderland fluffed the chance to get themselves back in survival contention after a goalless draw with Norwich.
The top flight’s basement boys could only manage a stalemate with their bottom half peers after lacking any incisiveness in the final third.
Norwich had the best of the opportunities and Sunderland were indebted to several excellent saves from Vito Mannone to deny the visitors.
Sunderland’s best effort came from a corner, as Brown headed against the post from close range.
It then got worse for Sunderland in stoppage time, with Brown handed a straight red card for a challenge on Norwich substitute Ricky Van Wolfswinkel - ruling the influential centre-half out of the next three games against Everton, Cardiff and Aston Villa.
Gus Poyet reverted to the side which drew at West Ham seven days earlier, with Ki Sung-Yeung, Phil Bardsley and Fabio Borini all coming back into the starting XI at the expense of Craig Gardner, Adam Johnson and Andrea Dossena.
There were also spots on the bench for Steven Fletcher and Jack Colback after the pair’s recovery from illness.
Norwich boss Chris Hughton made one change with fit-again Robert Snodgrass replacing Jonny Howson.
Sunderland had a let-off within the opening two minutes when Gary Hooper put the ball across the six-yard box with no-one able to get a finishing touch.
The Black Cats had Vito Mannone to thank in the 12th minute when Nathan Redmond cut inside off the left and unleashed a powerful low right-footed shot towards the near post, which the keeper pushed behind.
Sunderland unleashed several wayward efforts from outside the area in the exchanges which followed, before finally going close with one in the 32nd minute.
Ki Sung-Yeung broke from the edge of the Sunderland area and fed Fabio Borini down the right-hand channel.
Borini shot right-footed from 20 yards out, with the Italian’s powerful effort drifting just wide of the near post.
Jozy Altidore should have made more of a chance in the 35th minute when Wes Brown headed Seb Larsson’s free-kick back across goal.
Rather than hitting it first time, Altidore opted to take a touch which allowed Michael Turner the chance to block the American’s shot behind.
Mannone produced another splendid save to deny the Canaries five minutes before the interval after John O’Shea’s slack pass gave the visitors possession midway inside the Sunderland half.
After going past Wes Brown, Hooper let fly with a fierce right-footed from 25 yards, which Mannone brilliantly turned around the post.
Norwich had another opportunity on the stroke of half-time when Redmond’s cross deflected to Leroy Fer, in space just inside the area, but his shot lacked power and it was comfortable for Mannone.
HALF-TIME Sunderland 0 Norwich 0
Ondrej Celustka should have done better in the 58th minute when Brown laid it off to the full-back six yards out, but he dithered and Johan Elmander was able to intercept.
Borini almost profited from a mix-up between Turner and Steven Whittaker in the 64th minute, but he couldn’t generate power behind his stab at goal from 10 yards out and it was comfortable for John Ruddy.
Hooper should have done much better in the 67th minute, but sent his back-post header wide from Snodgrass’ inswinging cross from the right after finding himself in space.
The woodwork denied Sunderland three minutes later when Seb Larsson’s corner from the left caused havoc in the Norwich area before Turner sliced his clearance skywards.
The ball dropped to Brown, two yards out, but from an acute angle on goal, and the centre-half sent his header against the outside of the near post.
A superb last-gasp challenge from Turnner denied substitute Steven Fletcher in the 78th minute when the Scot was set to turn Larsson’s cross in at the near post.
Mannone came to Sunderland’s rescue again in the 81st minute when Norwich broke and Fer fed the unmarked Ricky Van Wolfswinkel down the left-hand side of the area.
The substitute shot right-footed towards the far post, but Mannone mannaged to turn it away low to his left.
Sunderland broke immediately and Borini caught Ruddy out of his goal on the left-hand corner flag.
The Italian laid it back to Ki on the edge of the area, whose chipped shot landed on the roof of the net.
Sunderland were then reduced to 10 men in stoppage time when Brown lunged in on Van Wolfswinkel on the left-hand touchline, with referee Martin Atkinson immediately brandishing a red card.
FULL-TIME Sunderland 0 Norwich 0
SUNDERLAND: Mannone, Celustka, Brown, O’Shea, Bardsley, Cattermole, Ki, Larsson (Roberge 90), Giaccherini (Johnson 63), Borini, Altidore (Fletcher 68). Subs not used: Pickford, Dossena, Gardner, Colback, Roberge. Booked: Larsson (76), Borini (90). Sent off: Brown (90)
NORWICH: Ruddy, Whittaker, Bassong, Turner, Olsson, Johnson, Snodgrass, Redmond, Fer, Hooper, Elmander (Van Wolfswinkel 77). Subs not used: Bunn, Hoolahan, Garrido, Becchio, Bennett, Murphy. Booked: Whittaker (49)
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