This should have been an afternoon when the relegation battle became a two-way race for survival.
With Norwich's late win over Newcastle moving the Canaries six point clear of the Magpies, Sunderland had a golden opportunity to remain on their coat-tails, yet paid the price for their inability to break the deadlock.
For all West Brom's defensive mindset frustrated Sunderland in a Stadium of Light stalemate for the second successive year, Sam Allardyce's men had the chances to come away with all three points.
A first clean sheet since November came as little consolation for the Black Cats after Jermain Defoe, Fabio Borini and Jan Kirchhoff all went close, with Baggies keeper Ben Foster making a string of excellent saves.
The draw left Sunderland four points adrift of Norwich, albeit the Canaries have a game in hand.
After perhaps an inevitably nervy opening few exchanges, Sunderland produced their first effort on target in the ninth minute after Younes Kaboul proved to be an unlikely creator.
Kaboul received possession on the right flank, beat his man and delivered a low cross which was flicked goalwards by Jermain Defoe, but gathered at the near post by Ben Foster.
But it was a rare sight of goal for either side in the opening 25 minutes, with the encounter predictably combatative, particularly with West Brom showing little inclination to go forwards.
Wahbi Khazri had strong appeals for a penalty waved away by poor referee Roger East, before the Tunisian created a superb opportunity for Lee Cattermole.
Khazri switched the play to the right-hand side of the area for the onrushing Cattermole, but after just about bringing it under control, Ben Foster saved at the feet of the midfielder.
Sunderland started the second half poorly, but Jan Kirchhoff came desperately close to a 54th minute opener.
The German collected Fabio Borini's square ball on the edge of the area, bundled his way through the Baggies defence, before toe-poking a shot at goal which was saved by the face of Foster, who knew nothing about it.
Moments later, Borini made room for himself 25 yards out and hit a right-foot shot which was turned around the post by Foster.
Just after the hour, Borini had a far better chance - meeting DeAndre Yedlin's low right wing cross with a half-volley that he sent a yard wide of the target.
Sunderland then had a lull before pushing again for a late winner, with Borini denied by a superb 85th minute stop from Foster.
The Italian checked inside from the left-hand side of the area and curled a right-foot shot towards the far corner, but it was superbly turned away by the keeper.
Four minutes later, Sunderland had an even better chance when Yann M'Vila threaded the ball through to Defoe down the left-hand side of the area.
Despite being surrounded by two defenders, Defoe had room to shoot, but his right-foot effort was saved by the legs of Foster.
Sunderland: Mannone, Yedlin, Kaboul, Kone, van Aanholt, Kirchhoff, Cattermole, M'Vila, Khazri (N'Doye 82), Borini, Defoe. Subs not used: Pickford, O'Shea, Jones, Rodwell, Toivonen, Larsson. Booked: Kaboul (18)
WBA: Foster, Dawson, McAuley, Evans, Chester, Gardner (McClean 71), Sandro, Yacob, Fletcher, Berahino (Leko 78), Rondon (Anichebe 81). Subs not used: Myhill, Olsson, Lambert, Pritchard, Anichebe. Booked: Gardner (47)