Sunderland remain unbeaten in League One despite playing 70 minutes against Oxford United with ten men.
A red card for Max Power compounded another poor start from the Black Cats but they again showed their character in grinding out a point.
The second half swung from end to end and the hosts certainly rode their luck on occasions, but their endeavour and energy was outstanding.
To begin with they simply could not get to grips with the game, overrun from the first whistle as Oxford's lively front four caused problems.
Ricky Holmes, on loan from Sheffield United, was drifting into space and forced a good save from Jon McLaughlin as his curling effort headed for the top corner.
He was on the scoresheet before long, Lee Cattermole giving a free-kick away on the edge of the area after Sunderland had lots the ball. McLaughlin got a hand to his effort but couldn't keep it out of the net.
It was a woeful start and one that got even worse when Power saw red, scything down Marcus Browne as he ran into the host's half.
Tensions boiled over as Power confronted the Oxford dug-out, seemingly incensed by a comment from the opposition bench. After the melee Oxford assistant Shaun Derry was sent to the stands.
Discipline was a problem for the Black Cats throughout the half.
Referee Mark Heywood had little control of the game and made a number of contentious calls as tempers rose.
Lynden Gooch was given a yellow after pushing his opponent, while Chris Maguire went into the book and put himself in danger with a number of fouls thereafter.
Cameron Brannagan was also booked for a rash challenge on George Honeyman.
Jamie Mackie had a good effort blocked but despite having a man advantage, the visitors struggled to carve out glaring opportunities.
Sunderland had just one opening, with Alim Ozturk heading over from a Bryan Oviedo cross. Unimpressed, Jack Ross introduced Charlie Wyke for his debut at the break.
The visitors started the better again, Browne stinging McLaughlin's palms from the edge of the area. In truth, the Black Cats had struggled any time Oxford had ran at them with ball at feet.
Sunderland, though, have shown they have goals in them no matter what, and against the run of play they were soon level.
Josh Maja released Lynden Gooch is space, and he drove at goal in trademark style. His shot looked to be going wide but the slightest of touches from Charlie Wyke turned it home via the inside of the post.
They came close to a second just after the hour, a short free-kick worked to the edge of the area. Donald Love scuffed his effort but Jack Baldwin turned it towards goal, the ball drifting just wide.
Despite playing with ten they continued to create the best chances, Josh Maja shooting wide from an Oviedo cross.
They were immensely fortunate, nevertheless, that when McLaughlin spilled a routine shot from distance, Jamie Mackie was ruled to be in an offside position as he turned the ball home.
Referee Heywood's shambolic performance as summed up five minutes from time when Shandon Baptiste inexplicably avoided a second yellow, despite hauling down Lee Cattermole as he broke into space.
The Black Cats rode their luck as Wyke turned a corner towards his own goal, his effort just cleared off the line.
But they held on for a point that they would have happily taken at the break when the odds seemed stacked against them.
Oxford United XI: Mitchell; Norman, Nelson, Mousinho, Ruffles; Brannagan, Baptiste; Browne, Henry, Holmes (Whyte, 64); Mackie (Obika, 84)
Subs: McMahon, Smith, Shearer, Dickie, Garbutt
Sunderland XI: McLaughlin; Love (James, 79), Ozturk, Baldwin, Oviedo; Gooch, Cattermole, Power, Honeyman; Maguire (Wyke, 45), Maja (McGeouch, 73)
Subs: Ruiter, Flanagan, O'Nien, Robson
Bookings: Maguire, 12 Cattermole, 16 Gooch, 22 Brannagan, 26 Oviedo, 48 Ruffels, 61 Baptiste, 72 Love, 75
Red card: Power, 20