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Jack Colback's 95th-minute equaliser piled more misery on Cardiff City as Sunderland came from behind to claim a 2-2 draw on Saturday.
The Welsh side looked to be in complete control in their first match following the sacking of manager Malky Mackay, after Jordon Mutch had opened the scoring with a deflected strike with six minutes on the clock. Three points appeared to be a formality when former Sunderland man Fraizer Campbell struck in the early stages of the second half.
But Sunderland refused to lie down, and they gave themselves hope when Steven Fletcher pulled a goal back with seven minutes remaining to set up a frantic finish. And the comeback was completed with the last meaningful kick of the game when Colback found the net with a deflected effort to spark jubilant scenes in the away end and leave the Barclays Premier League's bottom side just two points adrift of safety.
Gary Medel was restored to the Cardiff midfield as one of three changes made by interim coaches David Kerslake and Joe McBride, while Sunderland boss Poyet – without Adam Johnson through illness – selected Jozy Altidore to lead the line in place of Fletcher.
Cardiff made a bright start and they were rightly refused a penalty in the first minute as referee Chris Foy ruled that Mutch had dived after a challenge with Valentin Roberge. The 22-year-old was instead booked for simulation, but Mutch was again involved in the match’s first real chance shortly afterwards, the midfielder meeting Craig Noone's cross with a powerful header that flew over the crossbar.
He was soon rewarded for his initiative after six minutes, however, when he capitalised on ponderous defending from the visitors to burst forward and fire a shot that deflected off Modibo Diakite and into the bottom corner.
Sunderland struggled to gain a foothold in the contest and owed much to their goalkeeper, Vito Mannone, who produced an excellent fingertip save to keep out Kim Bo-Kyung's fierce long-range drive.
The chances continued to flow for the hosts as Steven Caulker, Peter Whittingham and Campbell all went close to adding to their lead.
However, it was Sunderland who perhaps should have scored the second goal of the encounter just after the half-hour mark when Altidore shot wide with the goal at his mercy after David Marshall had failed to deal with an effort from Ki Sung-Yueng. Marshall then pulled off two superb saves from Fabio Borini to keep his side's lead intact.
Sunderland then lost Borini to illness at half-time, with the Italian striker sent to hospital for a check-up after complaining of feeling unwell, and Fletcher came on in his place, but the Black Cats' task was made even harder 12 minutes into the second period when Campbell converted Mutch's pull-back.
Lee Cattermole went close to finding a reply soon after with a shot that arced narrowly over the bar but then Fletcher frayed the home nerves as he turned in an Emanuele Giaccherini cross seven minutes from time.
That set up a late Sunderland onslaught, with Fletcher and Roberge both going close, before Colback became the visitors' hero in the fifth minute of added time as his effort from the edge of the area took a wicked deflection past a despairing Marshall.
Cardiff interim manager David Kerslake: "The players are devastated in there, we got ourselves into a fabulous position and with the quality we have we expect to see the game out. For probably the first 35-40 minutes we blew Sunderland away, but credit to them. Gus [Poyet] has changed his shape and they kept the ball much better.
"When you are 2-0 up and you're under the cosh, that's what we should have done, we should have looked to keep possession better than we did. Still, at 2-0 with eight minutes to go we've conceded a poor goal, there is work to be done there."
"With all respect, I wouldn't be interested in this job. I love being a coach, that's where I see myself."
Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet: "It was an incredible day, but we started poorly. It looked after they scored their second that the game was dead.
"We fought hard though and put Cardiff on the back foot and in the end I thought we deserved the equaliser. Mentally in football it's vital you approach the game in the right way and I don't think our warm-up was a good one.
"It took us 30 minutes to get going and understand that you need to battle and we did that in the end."
"Fletcher is a player who is difficult to find. He is very important to us but it is impossible to play him all the time. He works very hard. We try to get the best out of him and realise he is probably more dangerous up front in a two.
"We are five games unbeaten now and this is very important because it means we are difficult to beat.
|01 Jan 2014||v Arsenal (A)|
|29 Mar 2014||v West Brom (A)|
|01 Feb 2014||v Norwich (H)|
|19 Apr 2014||v Stoke (H)|
|27 Apr 2014||v Sunderland (A)|
|08 Mar 2014||v Fulham (H)|