Sunderland fight back to frustrate Fulham
Sunderland inched closer to Premier League survival as the Black Cats fought back from two goals down to rescue a 2-2 draw against Fulham on Saturday.
Martin O'Neill's team looked set for a disappointing defeat at the Stadium of Light after Fulham raced into a 2-0 lead in the first half thanks to Dimitar Berbatov's penalty and a Sascha Riether strike.
But Sunderland reduced the deficit before the break through Craig Gardner's penalty and Stephane Sessegnon's second half goal salvaged a potentially valuable point in the battle to avoid relegation.
The Black Cats, who ended a run of three successive defeats, are now six points above the bottom three, while Fulham remain in relative safety in mid-table.
Sunderland desperately needed a win after taking just one point from their last four games, but they found themselves in deep trouble by the time 35 minutes had elapsed.
Martin Jol's side took the lead with 16 minutes gone when Gardner was adjudged to have tripped Ashkan Dejagah inside the box.
Referee Mark Halsey pointing to the spot to the fury of the home team and former Manchester United striker Berbatov calmly steered the spot-kick past Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.
Fulham increased their lead in the 35th minute, breaking at pace from a Sunderland corner. Mignolet could only parry Dejagah's shot from a tight angle and Riether pounced on the rebound to fire home.
Just as the game was spinning out of their control, Sunderland were handed a lifeline in the 37th minute.
Philippe Senderos pulled Sunderland striker Danny Graham as the pair challenged for a ball over the top and Halsey once again pointed to the spot.
Gardner smashed the penalty past Mark Schwarzer to set up a tense second half.
The Cottagers had a chance to put the game beyond doubt midway through the second half, but Mignolet raced from his line to block Berbatov's effort after Bryan Ruiz had played him in with a lofted pass.
That proved crucial as Sessegnon drilled home from 15 yards in the 70th minute after the ball broke invitingly for him.