JACK Stelling saved the day as Sunderland stopped mid-table Newcastle from snatching derby-day glory at Roker Park.
But the Wearsiders’ First Division title ambitions suffered a second successive home setback, following on from a 2-2 draw in the previous Roker clash with leaders Manchester United.
Sunderland had the chance to move within a point of United and Liverpool, but blew it as the Magpies capitalised on a below-par defensive display.
Argus was angry with the home back line when he reflected on the draw in the Echo, writing: “Whatever we may think of certain parts of the Roker team, it certainly has not got a championship defence – against Newcastle it was more a wide open gap than a defence.
“I don’t know what happened to Billy Walsh, but never in my recollection have I seen such a weak display at centre-half in Sunderland’s colours.”
There was plenty of excitement for the record league Roker crowd of 68,004 – indeed Argus wrote immediately after the game that “this was the greatest derby for quite a few years. Certainly, there has been nothing to equal it since the war.”
Newcastle were ahead after just 12 minutes when Walsh blundered with a short pass (Argus commented: “There can be no excuse for Walsh making a short pass when the ball could have been kicked downfield”) and Frank Houghton collected the ball with ease and raced clear on goal before pushing his shot just out of keeper Johnny Mapson’s reach.
Newcastle could have increased their lead, but Sunderland hauled themselves back into the game on 25 minutes.
Joe Harvey conceded an indirect free-kick on the six-yard line and there was a virtual scrimmage as Newcastle lined up to defend it, but Len Shackleton found a way through the crowd of players, shooting in off the bar after the ball was laid off to him.
Sunderland did not stay on level terms for long, though.
Harvey launched the ball into the danger area from the wing and Mapson, covering the ball as Bobby Mitchell cut in, tried to gather it in the air. But the keeper dropped it under pressure and then fell down, leaving Ernie Taylor with the simplest task to tap the loose ball home.
Mapson made amends with a double fisted punch to clear the next attack, then Arthur Hudgell produced a superb tackle to stop Houghton breaking through.
Sunderland had the wind at their backs in the second half and needed just seven minutes to level again, with Ivor Broadis eluding tackles and, cutting in from the flank, driving his cross-cum-shot past keeper Fairbrother.
Houghton almost restored Newcastle’s lead a minute later, shooting narrowly wide, but Sunderland came more into the game and Dickie Davis headed a Tommy Wright cross just over. Stelling then cleared off the line to defy Houghton after he beat Walsh and Hudgell and got his shot past Mapson.
The visitors, though, were denied a last-gasp winner when full-back Stelling came to the rescue, heading away from under the bar after Mapson could not get a hand on Houghton’s header from a Taylor cross.
Argus commented: “Though Mapson made some really good saves, it was actually Stelling who ‘saved his bacon’ twice.
“Derby games seldom pan out according to form. This one did not. Sunderland should have lost 5-3 on the chances of the game.
“With the exception that Newcastle’s two goals came from defensive errors, which should not arise in a first-class defence, Sunderland played just as well as they were allowed to play.
“Billy Watson had more on his plate than any wing-half should have, owing to the deficiencies in the centre of the defence. It affected his distribution, but he was still much better, on the day, than left-half Arthur Wright.
“Dick Davis had a thankless task against the strong man of the Newcastle side – Frank Brennan. The Scot dominated the penalty area – a very great contrast to what happened at the other end of the field.
“Although Wearside supporters may have been disappointed with the result, and some aspects of the team’s play, no one could grumble that they did not get value for money – it was hard from start to finish, with plenty of variety in it.”