The Sky Blues battled back from a goal behind, with a smartly-taken Jonson Clarke-Harris goal ensuring City left the Ricoh with a well-deserved point.
With chants from both Sky Blues and Sunderland supporters ringing around the ground, there was a positive atmosphere bellowing out of the stadium ahead of kick-off, resulting in City’s energetic start.
The back-and-forth between the two sets of supporters was reflected on the pitch as a whipped ball across the face of goal just evaded the far-post run of Luke Thomas, before Sunderland’s Chris Maguire struck the post with a curling free-kick inside 10 minutes.
Tom Bayliss, returning to the team after recovering from injury, then collected the ball on the right channel, and keeping possession with a swift turn, helped supply Jonson Clarke-Harris whose drive from outside the area was collected by Sunderland keeper Jon McLaughlin.
Though, the away side responded with attacks of their own as the game approached the half-hour mark, despite their attacks failing to test Lee Burge in the City goal. Most noticeably a header from Tom Davies, a substitute for the injured Junior Brown, diverted a long-range goal-bound effort away to safety.
As the latter stages of the first-half were halted by injury, resulting in eight added-on minutes, the City faithful remained buoyant as Mark Robins’ men headed into the interval.
For all the optimism held by those wearing Sky Blue, the home side faced an uphill tasked early on in the second-half as Lee Cattermole put the Black Cats ahead. A low ball from the right bypassed the City defence and found the former Sunderland skipper at the back post to slot the ball into the far corner on 49 minutes.
However, much like the beginning of the first-half, City were quick to respond. As the away side hurried to clear away a cross, the ball fell to Bayliss whose half volley forced former Burton keeper McLaughlin into a sharp reaction save.
Reiterating their desire to restore parity in the game, an impressive first-time cross from City captain Michael Doyle found Luke Thomas, whose late run surprised the Sunderland backline, only for his header to be straight at Scottish international McLaughlin.
Two minutes later, smart interplay between City’s two frontmen, Clarke-Harris and Conor Chaplin, in the Sunderland area, led to a chance that the Pompey loanee ought to have placed on target from around the penalty spot.
Clarke-Harris, in particular, continued to threaten as the half wore on, with two chances in quick succession around the hour mark. Firstly, fed by Bayliss, the former Rotherham man found himself faced with a tight angle on the left-hand side but still forced a corner with his near-post shot.
This was followed by a more spectacular effort as the striker linked up with Dujon Sterling, in order to unleash a shot from 20 yards that seemed destined to be surging for the top corner but for McLaughlin’s outstretched arm.
It was little surprise, then, when Sterling and Clarke-Harris combined to provide City’s equaliser, moments later. A determined run from the full-back led the Chelsea loanee to pick Clarke-Harris out with a squared pass – and the forward responded with a deft finish, which nestled into the corner of the Sunderland net on 68 minutes.
Not content with sitting back when back on level terms, Chaplin almost completed a comeback for City, five minutes later, with his shot from the edge of the 18-yard box testing the Sunderland keeper once more.
On 77 minutes, there was another celebration from the City faithful, as Jodi Jones made his long-awaited return to the Sky Blues XI, and he received a joyous reception from the home support.
Throughout the game, the City defence had done an impressive job stifling Sunderland’s coveted attack, however, there were still moments for Lee Burge to showcase his undoubted quality. None more so than when the Sky Blue number one denied Sunderland captain George Honeyman with an outstretched left hand, following a sweetly struck shot, with less than five minutes remaining.
There was to be even more late drama, though, as miscommunication amongst the Black Cat backline enabled Conor Chaplin to run free at goal. With McLaughlin bearing down on the striker, Chaplin deftly flicked it around the oncoming keeper, but his shot was denied by a last-ditch clearance.
Attendance: 16,407 (4,897 Sunderland supporters)
Goals: Lee Cattermole, Jonson Clarke-Harris
Sky Blues XI: Lee Burge (GK), Dujon Sterling, Dominic Hyam, Jordan Willis, Junior Brown (Davies, 17’), Michael Doyle (C), Tom Bayliss, Luke Thomas (Jones, 77’), Jordan Shipley, Conor Chaplin, Jonson Clarke-Harris.
Subs: Liam O’Brien (GK), Tom Davies, Liam Kelly, Jodi Jones, Abu Ogogo, Amadou Bakayoko, Tony Andreu.
Sunderland XI: Jon McLaughlin (GK), Denver Hume (Oviedo, 38’), Glenn Loovens (Matthews, 4’), Jack Baldwin, Tom Flanagan, Lee Cattermole, Dylan McGeouch (Power, 66’), Lynden Gooch, George Honeyman (C), Chris Maguire, Josh Maja.
Subs: Robbin Ruiter (GK), Alim Ozturk, Adam Matthews, Bryan Oviedo, Max Power, Aiden McGeady, Jerome Sinclair.
Yellows: Dominic Hyam, Lee Cattermole