Jack Baldwin lead the Sunderland fight back as they toiled their way to another draw at home against Blackpool.
The home side had trailed for a majority of the match after Armand Gnanduillet’s brilliant opener, but earned a deserved point after making their second-half pressure tell against the Seasiders.
The draw leaves Sunderland three points off automatic promotion, having used up one of their two games in hand on second-placed Barnsley. Ultimately the Black Cats paid the price for a disjointed first-half and wasteful finishing from Will Grigg in particular.
Through 20 minutes it was more of the same from Sunderland. Plenty of possession and territory, but no end product.
Barring a few dangerous Grant Leadbitter corners, Blackpool were comfortable, even managing good possession in the Sunderland half, they were similarly wasteful in the final third, early on.
A deflected Jimmy Dunne effort from long-range and a cross-cum-shot from George Honeyman did at least give the Sunderland fans something to cheer about as Sunderland started to threaten before the half-hour mark.
The game sprang to life 15 minutes prior to half-time, first Curtis Tilt saw his free header blocked on the line from a Blackpool corner.
Then on the counter from the resulting corner Duncan Watmore slipped in Grigg after an excellent through ball from Honeyman, but the new singing fluffed his lines, scuffing his effort too close to Mark Howard in the Blackpool goal.
Moments after missing the best chance of the game Sunderland were behind. Gnanduillet’s rocket flew past Jon McLaughlin from 20 yards finding the bottom corner.
The Black Cats nearly countered before half-time when Aiden McGeady hit the outside of the post from a free-kick, Howard was rooted to the spot, well-beaten.
Five minutes before half-time Blackpool nearly doubled their lead, this time Ben Heneghan missed a free-header six yards out, as the Wearsiders failed to defend another set-piece.
The opening half finished with the Seasiders doing something Sunderland rarely managed, they tested the opposition goalkeeper. McLaughlin held on well from Matty Virtue’s pot-shot to keep the Black Cats only one behind at half-time.
Sunderland were slightly better after half-time without ever truly arresting control of the game. In the first 20 minutes of the second-half, Watmore fired just wide across goal and Charlie Wyke saw his scuffed effort blocked in the Tangerines’ box.
Grigg’s tough start to life as Sunderland’s star forward hit a further roadblock as the Northern Ireland international conspired to miss an open-goal. Grigg rounded Howard with ease, but shot into the side-netting under no real pressure with no Blackpool defenders covering, a shocking miss.
Mid-way through the second-half Sunderland finally put the visitors under consistent pressure, Wyke saw a snapshot well-saved and Watmore got in-behind only to botch his cutback.
Baldwin continued Sunderland’s run of scoring in every league fixture this year burying a near-post header from a Leadbitter corner to bring Sunderland level.
Despite the final ten minutes being all Sunderland, Blackpool held on, another disappointing draw on Wearside.
Jon McLaughlin, 6/10: Faultless for the goal, didn’t have much to do outside of that.
Luke O’Nien, 5/10: Reasonably solid defensively, but ineffective as an attacking threat.
Jack Baldwin, 7/10: Fairly solid, outside of Blackpool’s goal and of course scored a vital one for the Mackems.
Jimmy Dunne, 7/10: Appears to be growing in confidence, looked much more assured in possession.
Reece James, 5/10: Careless in possession and looked vulnerable defending at times, a second straight poor performance.
Grant Leadbitter, 6/10: Improved after half-time, but was made to look bad at times due to Jack Ross’ unbalanced formation.
George Honeyman, 7/10: Sunderland’s best player, responsible for the rare pieces of inventive play the home side managed.
Lynden Gooch, 5/10: Worked tirelessly, but didn’t provide enough quality, in an unfamiliar central role.
Duncan Watmore, 7/10: Sunderland’s most dangerous player on the night.
Aiden McGeady, 4/10: Lacked sharpness all night, didn’t play with enough drive or urgency.
Will Grigg, 5/10: Missed a one-on-one and contributed very little.
(SUB) Charlie Wyke, 6/10: At least looked threatening for a change.
(SUB) Lewis Morgan, 7/10: Carried the ball in dangerous areas and brought a different dimension to Sunderland’s attack
(SUB) Tom Flanagan, 6/10: Rarely involved after being introduced late on.
Man of the Match: George Honeyman