SEB LARSSON’S late leveller rescued an opening day point for Sunderland after a 2-2 draw at West Brom.
Lee Cattermole gave Sunderland a dream start when he scored a screamer from 30 yards for only his second goal for the Black Cats.
Valentin Roberge then spurned a great chance to double Sunderland’s lead, before the French defender was harshly penalised just before half-time for fouling Victor Anichebe in the area.
Saido Berahino equalised from the spot before the England Under-21 striker put the Baggies ahead with 16 minutes to go when he converted ex-Sunderland midfielder Craig Gardner’s cross.
But with five minutes remaining, Sunderland new boys Jordi Gomez and Patrick van Aanholt combined to set up Larsson, who guided the ball into the far corner.
Vito Mannone won the battle with summer signing Costel Pantilimon to start the season as Sunderland number one, as Gus Poyet kept faith with last season’s Player of the Year.
But Sunderland were dealt a blow before kick-off after Santiago Vergini was ruled out through injury.
With fellow right-back Billy Jones also sidelined through injury, Wes Brown moved to right-back with Valentin Roberge slotting alongside captain John O’Shea at centre-half.
Connor Wickham started on the left flank, with new boys Jack Rodwell and Patrick van Aanholt the only summer signings to be included in the starting XI.
New recruits Pantilimon, Will Buckley and Jordi Gomez were on the bench, as was striker Danny Graham.
Former Sunderland midfielder Craig Gardner, who joined West Brom in the summer, made his Baggies bow, while ex-Black Cats forward Stephane Sessegnon was on the bench for the hosts.
It was Sunderland who broke the deadlock in spectacular fashion in the fifth minute.
Seb Larsson’s free-kick from the right picked out Brown at the far post who headed it back across goal.
West Brom could only clear as far as Cattermole, 30 yards out, who brought the ball under control before unleashing a scorching right-footed shot into the top corner, which Baggies keeper Ben Foster couldn’t keep out.
Baggies debutant Sebastien Pocognoli tried his luck from distance in the 22nd minute, but his well-struck angled left-footed drive was a couple yards wide of Mannone’s near post.
Moments later, Saido Berahino lashed a shot into the side netting after being played in by Victor Anichebe down the right-hand side of the area.
Both chances came during a decent spell of pressure from West Brom, yet Sunderland should have doubled their advantage in the 31st minute.
Larsson sent in a long, raking free-kick from the left flank and it found the head of Roberge, eight yards out, who sent his effort a foot wide of the post when he should have scored.
Chris Brunt went desperately close to an equaliser in the 36th minute when he let fly with a wicked left-foot shot from 30 yards which was inches wide.
Moments later, Gardner drew a smart save out of Mannone after collecting Youssouf Mulumbu’s square pass 20 yards and hitting a right-footed shot which swerved in the air and forced the Sunderland keeper to tip over the bar.
Three minutes before the interval, West Brom were level in controversial fashion after referee Neil Swarbrick awarded the hosts a penalty.
Anichebe went down on the turn under pressure from Roberge, yet there looked to be minimal contact.
Roberge pointed to the spot though, with Berahino sending Mannone the wrong way to equalise.
HALF-TIME WBA 1 Sunderland 1
Albion had a goal ruled out within three minutes of the restart when Craig Dawson bundled the ball in, only for the linesman to have already raised a flag for a foul on Mannone.
Connor Wickham had a great chance in the 52nd minute when he met Seb Larsson’s left wing corner at the far post on the volley, but he sent his effort high and wide from six yards out.
Three minutes later, West Ham had an opportunity at the other end after Anichebe span away from Roberge far too easily down the right-hand side of the area.
But rather than let fly himself, Anichebe was caught in two minds and scuffed a cross-come-shot harmlessly across the face.
Just before the hour mark, Steven Fletcher had the ball in the net when he headed home from six yards, yet he was rightly flagged for offside after Brown had flicked on Cattermole’s right-wing cross.
Sunderland then enjoyed their best spell of the game, but it was West Brom who went ahead in the 74th minute.
Graham Dorrans was given far too much room to let fly from 25 yards and his right-footed shot proved too hot to handle for Mannone.
Gardner pounced on the loose ball and chipped it into the area, where Berahino got ahead of the sleeping van Aanholt to net his second.
But with five minutes to go, Sunderland levelled after substitute Jordi Gomez played a lovely ball down the left-hand channel for van Aanholt to run onto.
The left-back pulled the ball back and Larsson managed to guide it into the far corner.
FULL-TIME WBA 2 Sunderland 2
WEST BROM: Foster, Wisdom, Olsson, Dawson, Pocognoli, Gardner (Yacob 84), Mulumbu, Dorrans (Sessegnon 84), Berahino, Brunt (Baird 77), Anichebe. Subs not used: Myhill, Ideye, Davidson, O’Neill. Booked: Dawson (10), Dorrans (30), Olsson (32)
SUNDERLAND: Mannone, Brown (Altidore 81), O’Shea, Roberge, van Aanholt, Cattermole, Larsson, Rodwell (Gomez 68), Johnson (Buckley 73), Wickham, Fletcher. Subs not used: Pantilimon, Bridcutt, Mavrias, Graham, Buckley. Booked: Roberge (42)