LEIGHTON Baines’ penalty denied Sunderland back-to-back wins for the first time this season after a pulsating 1-1 draw against Everton.
Injury-hit Sunderland built on victory at Crystal Palace by keeping their points tally ticking over with a well-deserved draw against the Toffees, which could easily have been another win.
Seb Larsson’s opened the scoring in the second half when he scored direct from a free-kick in the Premier League for the first time since ex-Sunderland manager’s Martin O’Neill’s first game in charge back in December 2011.
But Everton pulled level within 10 minutes when Seamus Coleman was brought down in the area by Connor Wickham and despite lengthy appeals from the Sunderland players, Baines converted the resulting spot-kick.
Wes Brown could have won it in stoppage time, but his header was cleared off the line by James McCarthy.
Gus Poyet made three changes to his starting XI - two of which were enforced by the absence of the injured Patrick van Aanholt and the suspended Lee Cattermole.
Wes Brown took van Aanholt’s place in the back four, while Liam Bridcutt replaced Cattermole to make his first Premier League start of the campaign.
The other change saw Adam Johnson preferred to Will Buckley out wide.
There were also spots on the bench for fit-again Jack Rodwell, plus Under-21 left-back Tom Robson.
Everton made three changes from their midweek Europa League exertions, with Samuel Eto’o, Ross Barkley and Seamus Coleman recalled to the starting XI.
Sunderland survived a scare within the opening three minutes when Eto’o and Romelu Lukaku played a couple of slick one-twos inside the Black Cats half.
Eto’o received the final return pass on the edge of the Sunderland area, but as the red and white shirts surrounded him, he fired high and wide.
Two minutes later, Sunderland went close at the other end as Connor Wickham met Seb Larsson’s corner with a powerful back post header which just cleared the crossbar.
Everton were forced into an early change in the 13th minute after Gareth Barry was stretchered off following a trip by Jordi Gomez - a foul which saw the Sunderland midfielder booked.
The visitors enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the exchanges that followed, yet Sunderland’s defensive unit held firm, albeit the Black Cats struggled to keep the ball going forwards.
Aiden McGeady was a whisker away from breaking the deadlock in the 33rd minute when he struck a left-footed angled drive from 25 yards out which drifted inches wide of the far post.
Three minutes later, Seb Larsson caught Darron Gibson napping on the edge of the Sunderland box and managed to divert the ball into the path of Jordi Gomez.
The Spaniard hit a right-footed shot which Tim Howard managed to divert behind with his outstretched right leg.
HALF-TIME Sunderland 0 Everton 0
A brilliant piece of goalkeeping from Costel Pantilimon spared Bridcutt’s blushes five minutes into the second half.
Bridcutt’s awful back pass sent Lukaku through on goal, but Pantilimon dived at the Everton striker’s feet and came away with the ball as he tried to around him.
Pantilimon saved Sunderland again in the 56th minute after an Everton counter-attack culminated in Eto’o feeding Lukaku down the left-hand side of the area.
Lukaku went past Santiago Vergini before smashing a left-footed shot at goal which Pantilimon tipped onto the outside of the near post and behind.
The breakthrough for Sunderland arrived in the 67th minute after substitute Will Buckley was brought down 25 yards.
Larsson stepped up and curled it with pinpoint precision into the bottom corner.
But it only took Everton until the 76th minute to pull level after punishing Sunderland from the penalty spot.
Eto’o’s lovely ball sent Seamus Coleman in behind the Sunderland back-line, where he was brought down by Wickham.
Sunderland’s players protested vehemently, but replays showed Wickham - who arguably should have been dismissed for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity - went through Coleman before getting a touch on the ball.
Baines stepped up and squeezed his spot-kick under the body of Pantilimon.
A brilliant goal-line clearance from James McCarthy denied Sunderland the winner in stoppage time after Wes Brown met Bridcutt’s right wing cross.
Brown’s header beat Howard, but McCarthy who managed to scoop it clear.
FULL-TIME Sunderland 1 Everton 1
SUNDERLAND: Pantilimon, Vergini, O’Shea, Brown, Reveillere, Bridcutt, Larsson, Gomez (Rodwell 81), Johnson (Buckley 64), Wickham, Fletcher. Subs not used: Mannone, Altidore, Mavrias, Graham, Robson. Booked: Gomez (9)
EVERTON: Howard, Coleman, Distin, Jagielka, Baines, Barry (Gibson 13), McCarthy, Barkley (Osman 86), McGeady (Naismith 70), Lukaku, Eto’o. Subs not used: Robles, Hibbert, Besic, Atsu. Booked: McCarthy (30), McGeady (57)