An unfortunate Demba Ba own goal finally ended Newcastle United's resistance as Sunderland took advantage of the sending off of Cheikh Tiote to claim a 1-1 draw at the Stadium of Light.
Yohan Cabaye had given the visiting side the lead in the third minute before Tiote was dismissed for a challenge on Steven Fletcher midway through the first half.
Sunderland struggled to carve out goalscoring opportunities but took advantage of one of several set piece situations to save a point after John O'Shea's header deflected off Ba with five minutes remaining.
While Martin O'Neill named an unchanged team despite his side's 3-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester City a fortnight ago, Alan Pardew was able to welcome Danny Simpson and Fabricio Coloccini back into the fold in defense.
The tackling was snappy and the pressing frantic from the first whistle. When James McClean slipped to leave a Danny Rose pass loose, Hatem Ben Arfa accelerated down the right flank into the space vacated by the left back. Ba's shot from a tight angle was saved by Simon Mignolet but the goalkeeper could only push the ball into the path of Cabaye, who calmly fired into the bottom corner.
Sunderland was not without promising breaks of its own in the opening stages but found itself frustrated by Newcastle's decisive defending. There was a restlessness emerging in the stands but just as the early flames of the derby match seemed to have been fanned, they were reignited by a pair of controversial refereeing decisions.
Tiote saw red for a careless - if not particularly vicious - challenge which drew a somewhat dramatic reaction from Steven Fletcher. The referee, Martin Atkinson, had initially blown for a foul on the Ivorian and when the Magpies found themselves in the odd position of taking the subsequent free kick, Sebastian Larsson was perhaps fortunate not to be penalized for handball in the penalty area.
O'Neill's team was not nearly as fluent as it would have hoped but improved thereafter with the man advantage. Adam Johnson curled a difficult shot narrowly wide before Craig Gardner's free kick fizzed past the post and Pardew had seen enough to decide that the introduction of James Perch to replace Tiote in midfield was necessary.
Any halftime pep talk O'Neill might have delivered failed to immediately pay off after the break as Sunderland, despite controlling the ball, badly lacked ideas in the opposition half. The home supporters remained admirable in volume but increasingly demanded change and the Northern Irishman finally relented by introducing Louis Saha for the ineffective Stephane Sessegnon.
That did not help matters much in open play but Newcastle's penchant for conceding cheap free kicks proved the team's downfall. Coloccini was withdrawn having only recently returned from injury and it took Sunderland less than five minutes to take advantage of the absence of the Argentine, who had turned in a colossal performance.
Larsson sent the dead ball into the box from just inside the Newcastle half and O'Shea's header deflected off Ba to leave Tim Krul stranded and end the Magpies' stubborn resistance.
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