SUNDERLAND came from two goals behind to earn a vital point in their fight for survival against Southampton at the Stadium of Light.
Jay Rodriquez and Dejan Lovren gave the visitors a two-goal lead after half an hour, but Fabio Borini and Adam Johnson both struck to earn Gus Poyet’s side a draw that has moved them up to 18th a level on points with West Ham.
Poyet made two changes to the side that beat Fulham last weekend with Seb Larsson and Jozy Altidore coming in to replace Jack Colback and Steven Fletcher.
Knowing a win would take them out of the bottom three, the Black Cats knew a positive start was imperative against the Saints.
However, early kick-offs can be synonymous with slow starts and that is exactly how Sunderland came out, sluggish and off the pace, and they were punished after just four minutes.
Jay Rodriquez was allowed time and space to take the ball down, set himself up and the striker made no mistake firing a low shot inside Mannone’s right-hand post.
It could have been two when Luke Shaw’s shot was deflected onto the post by Adam Johnson with Southampton dominating possession in the opening stages.
Morgan Schneiderlin, who was pulling the string for Mauricio Pochettino’s side, found space to set up Lambert inside the area, but the England forward blazed his shot wide of the far post.
Wes Brown then gifted the visitors another opportunity to double their lead when he allowed Lambert to steal the ball and play in Rodriquez, but Mannone easily saved his tame shot.
Half an hour had gone with Sunderland yet to have a shot on goal, but the visitors were enjoying plenty.
Some slack marking saw Dejan Lovren volley in from Steven Davis’ corner, but despite their frailties Sunderland somehow managed to get themselves back in the game.
Just over a minute after Lovren’s goal, Johnson sent in a cross from the right and Borini did well to control and finish past Artur Boruc, who got a hand to the Italian’s effort.
After the break, Sunderland looked a lot brighter and almost equalised when Phil Bardsley shot wide from Larsson’s quickly-taken free-kick, although referee Chris Foy ordered for it to be retaken.
Southampton were still lethal on the break, though and Rodriquez and Shaw both forced good saves from Mannone in quick succession.
In the 64th minute, the Black Cats thought they had equalised when Borini ran onto substitute Craig Gardner’s flick-on and finished low past Boruc, but the linesman signalled for offside.
The hosts had been threatening since the restart and not satisfied with last weekend’s hat-trick, Johnson grabbed himself another goal.
A well-worked attack saw Gardner help Ki’s ball onto Johnson on the right and after twisting and turning the midfielder beat Boruc at his near post to draw Sunderland level.
Fletcher was introduced in place of Altidore, and within minutes of coming on the Scotsman could have put his side in front.
Boruc parried Gardner’s half volley into the forward’s path, but the Saints keeper did well to recover and make a save.