Gus Poyet's team were unable to turn their possession into goals in a tense clash at the Stadium of Light and they remain in the relegation zone, sitting three points adrift of safety following their third consecutive league match without a win.

Palace dropped to one place above the bottom three after their fourth successive game without a win.

With Sunderland desperate for a victory against one of their main rivals in the fight to beat the drop, Poyet made seven changes to the team beaten by Hull in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

Oscar Ustari, Santiago Vergini, Andrea Dossena, Lee Cattermole, Jack Colback, Emanuele Giaccherini and Ignacio Scocco were axed as Vito Mannone, Wes Brown, Marcos Alonso, Liam Bridcutt, Ki Sung-Yueng, Adam Johnson and Fabio Borini returned.

Sunderland were quickly into their stride, with former Manchester City star Johnson at the heart of their best moments.

Johnson was a real menace to Palace left-back Joel Ward, who earned an early booking after chopping down the elusive winger.

The fierce wind whipping around the Stadium of Light made two already anxious teams even more hesitant in possession and there were few real chances in a scrappy first half.

Poyet's men were having the better of it but poor execution let them down on the rare occasions they had a sight of goal.

Steven Fletcher was unable to convert a miscued shot from Borini, while South Korea midfielder Ki blazed well wide from long-range.

Poyet sent on Jozy Altidore for Fletcher at half-time and the American striker came close to breaking the deadlock with a dipping shot that forced Julian Speroni to make a fine save.

Yannick Bolasie fired straight at Sunderland goalkeeper Mannone when Palace finally got through the Black Cats' defence after good work from Tom Ince.

Borini was denied by the woodwork when his powerful strike beat Speroni but cannoned back off the angle of bar and post.

And Palace fared no better when South African midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi dragged his shot wide from a good position inside the Sunderland penalty area.