Substitute Fabio Borini denied Crystal Palace a first Barclays Premier League victory in 11 attempts after Connor Wickham’s double had threatened to sink former club Sunderland.
The Italian, an 80th-minute replacement for the bloodied Lee Cattermole, lashed home a dramatic last-minute equaliser from an improbable angle to ensure Wickham’s second-half double claimed only a point for the visitors.
A 2-2 draw was of little use to the Black Cats, who looked to be on their way to a precious victory when Dame N’Doye’s deflected shot flew in off defender Scott Dann.
But it was more than they looked like getting when Wickham blasted home twice within six minutes to take the visitors to within seconds of a first three-point haul since December.
Black Cats boss Sam Allardyce went into the game bemoaning his side’s inability to keep clean sheets and their lack of good fortune, and there was a significant improvement on both fronts during the opening 45 minutes.
In an end-to-end encounter, both sides created chances and respective goalkeepers Vito Mannone and Wayne Hennessey had work to do, and neither looked to be in any real trouble until fate intervened.
Hennessey had to field a well-struck 12th-minute Jack Rodwell effort and was grateful to see Wahbi Khazri’s strike deflected wide two minutes later.
But in the meantime, Mannone had had to race from his line to block Damien Delaney’s shot after Wickham had turned a Yohan Cabaye free-kick across goal, and he produced a fine reaction save to keep out Scott Dann’s bullet header from Cabaye’s 31st-minute corner.
But an even contest swayed Sunderland’s way nine minutes before the break when, after Jermain Defoe had laid Yann M’Vila’s pass into N’Doye’s path, he fired towards goal from 25 yards and Dann’s efforts to block wrong-footed Hennessey and sent the ball into his own net.
The Black Cats attempted to turn the screw as the half wore down with Defoe, who had earlier miskicked in front of goal, twice calling upon Hennessey in quick succession, but the teams were separated by the narrowest of margins as the half-time whistle sounded.
Wickham looped a header high over the bar from Zaha’s cross seconds after the restart, but there was little to choose between the sides once again as the half unfolded.
But the former Black Cat was not so wasteful with 61 minutes gone when he controlled and turned on Yannick Bolasie’s intelligent pass and thumped a right-foot shot past Mannone and in off the far post.
And he was not finished there, finding himself in the right place at the right time six minutes later to smash home a close-range volley after Mike Jedinak had got his head to Jordon Mutch’s right-wing corner.
But there was late drama when Borini, who had come on for Cattermole after he had suffered a cut to his head, collected DeAndre Yedlin’s pass and drilled the ball across an astonished Hennessey and inside the far post.