Elliot Embleton came off the bench to earn Sunderland a deserved point against Luton Town at Kenilworth Road. Sunderland had twice hit the woodwork in the first period through Danny Batth and Leon Dajaku, while Luton's James Bree had also struck the upright.
But the hosts took the lead in injury-time at the end of the first period as Carlton Morris finished from close range. Sunderland pushed hard for an equaliser, with Tony Mowbray making attacking substitutions - including introducing on-loan Everton striker Ellis Simms for his comeback game after seven matches on the sidelines with a toe injury - as he looked for a way back into the game.
And it came with a little over 10 minutes remaining, when Embleton swept home Jack Clarke's cross. Sunderland ended the afternoon in 16th place, with Luton ninth.
Mowbray made two changes to the side that started last weekend's home defeat against Burnley, bringing in defender Bailey Wright for his first start of the league season and forward Dajaku, replacing Trai Hume and Embleton. Luton boss Nathan Jones also made two changes, in his case to the side that lost 4-0 at Watford last weekend.
Henri Lansbury and captain Dan Potts came into the side, with Sonny Bradley and Luke Freeman dropping to the bench. Sunderland had to weather an early storm as they were pressed back in the early stages, often because they had given the ball away cheaply.
Anthony Patterson was called upon to make a couple of saves, including turning a 25-yard effort from Morris round the post. At the other end, Sunderland brought a save out of Ethan Horvath when Clarke wriggled into the box down the left but his close-range effort was blocked by the keeper, with the loose ball headed behind.
Luton were inches away from taking the lead on 19 minutes when Amari'i Bell's cross from the left was met by Bree at the far post, but his header hit the right-hand post and bounced across the face of goal and when the follow-up shot came from Jordan Clark, Patterson was equal to it. Five minutes later, it was Sunderland's turn to hit the frame of the goal.
Dajaku got into the box down the right and hit a low left-foot shot which beat Horvath but struck the base of the right-hand post. Sunderland had begun to take control of the game and ten minutes before the break they hit the post a second time, with Batth unlucky to see his header come back off the woodwork after he had met Alex Pritchard's free-kick.
Amad brought a couple of saves out of Horvath, with the Hatters' keeper twice having to get down to his left to push efforts round the post. But with just seconds remaining in injury-time at the end of the first period, Sunderland were punished after they gave the ball away trying to play it forward rather than running the clock down.
The ball was swept out to the right and Alfie Doughty's low cross was tapped home at the near post by Morris. After all the chances in the first half, opportunities were few and far between in the second period.
Patterson had to tap a vicious cross from Doughty over the bar soon after the restart, while at the other end Amad sent a shot into the sidenetting. Mowbray made a triple change with Embleton, Edouard Michut, and Patrick Roberts entering the action, while a little later Simms came on for the final 20 minutes.
It took a brilliant block to deny Cirkin from close range after good work from Luke O'Nien on the right. But Sunderland finally got the equaliser they deserved on 77 minutes.
Clarke's cross from the left found Embleton inside the area, and his one-touch finish found the bottom right-hand corner of the net. The final minutes were end-to-end, with both sides looking for a winning goal.
Sunderland came closest with Roberts curling a shot narrowly wide, while Simms saw an effort blocked after a rapid counter-attack, but neither team could find a way through.
How they lined up
Luton Town: Horvath, Bree, Lockyer, Potts, Lansbury (Freeman 30), Campbell (Bradley 71), Clark, Bell, Adebayo (Jerome 85), Morris (Cornick 71), Doughty (Mpanzu 71). Subs not used: Isted, Berry
Booked: Doughty, Bell
Sunderland: Patterson, O'Nien, Wright, Batth, Cirkin, Neil (Michut 60), Evans (Simms 70), Dajaku (Roberts 60), Pritchard (Embleton 60), Clarke, Amad. Subs not used: Bass, Hume, Matete
Booked: Evans, Cirkin, Clarke
Referee: James Linington (Newport)
- Tony Mowbray sees similarities between the pathways adopted by Sunderland and Luton Town
- Sunderland boss Tony Mowbray addresses Bailey Wright question as the defender remains in the wings
- Tony Mowbray sets out Sunderland World Cup break plan he hopes will 'reboot' their season
- Sunderland boss Tony Mowbray delivers encouraging Ellis Simms and Patrick Roberts update
- Sunderland's Trai Hume determined to stake his claim for a starting place in Lynden Gooch's absence