Sunderland five points off League One summit after late Bolton drama
Sunderland resuced a late point at Bolton Wanderers as Aiden McGeady converted a stoppage-time penalty.
Woeful defending had allowed the home side to take the lead through Jack Hobbs early in the second half, and the Black Cats found themselves struggling to break their opposition down on a bitterly frustrating afternoon.
They forced a late goal when George Dobson burst into the box, the referee blowing for handball.
After his miss against Rotherham McGeady stepped up and thumped his effort into the corner of the net, Sunderland finishing with their fourth 1-1 draw of the season.
Injuries had forced Jack Ross into a number of changes for the 1-1 draw with Rotherham United, with Tom Flanagan coming into defence and Will Grigg handed the chance to lead the line.
Buoyed by their draw against Oxford United in midweek, Bolton Wanderers started aggressively, though it was the Black Cats who had the better of the early openings.
Denver Hume played a good through ball just seven minutes in, George Dobson racing clear but denied as goalkeeper Remi Matthews just managing to get off his line in time to smother the ball.
Flanagan went close when he rose to meet an Aiden McGeady corner, with Bolton lively but vulnerable at the back.
They posed a threat nevertheless, with Liam Bridcutt very tidy at the base of midfield and Stoke loanee Thibaud Verlinden a constant threat on the right wing, forcing an early booking from Hume and often getting into dangerous areas.
They almost took a shock lead 22 minutes in when they broke downfield, Dennis Politic unleashing an effort that was deflected onto the far post, Jon McLaughlin rooted to the spot.
Sunderland were struggling to gain much rhythm in possession, though they continued to create the better openings.
Grigg came close when Josh Emmanuel just blocked his effort inside the area, and he ought to have scored when Chris Maguire superbly retrieved the loose ball, crossing to the back post where the striker could only head wide.
Maguire then forced a good save from Matthews at his near post after a good move from the Black Cats, with Flanagan heading wide from the resulting corner.
McLaughlin was largely untested at the other end but Bolton moved the ball confidently enough, and a long-range effort from Jason Lowe was a reminder of their threat as a frustrating half came to a conclusion.
Such was Verlinden’s threat, and the jeopardy of continuing with Hume on a yellow, Ross brought on Conor McLaughlin for the start of the second half.
The Northern Irishman foulded Verlinden soon after the restart, and the away side were rocked when Will Buckley headed the corner to the back post, where Jack Hobbs was free to thump into the net.
The response was almost immediate, Luke O’Nien volleying onto the post and McGeady slipping just as he tried to meet the loose ball.
Sunderland began to build pressure, McGeady firing wide of the near post after Maguire released him on the overlap.
Any foray into the Bolton half drew huge roars from the 4,000 followong in the Sunderland end, but the frustration was obvious too and when Ross chose to replace Chris Maguire with Charlie Wyke, there were some cries of ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’.
The Black Cats continued to threaten and Flanagan missed another huge opportunity when left unmarked at the back post, heading a Grant Leadbitter free kick wide via the woodwork.
Matthews twice made fine saves as the game headed into the final stages, first from McGeady and then from Gooch.
Bolton looked to have seen off the worst of the pressure when Dobson forced his way into the area, drawing the handball before McGeady emphatically scored.
Bolton Wanderers: Matthews, Emmanuel, Wright (Zouma, 76), Hobbs, Chicksen; Bridcutt, Buckley, Politic, Lowe, Verlinden (Murphy, 88); Crawford
Subs: Alexander, Weir, Darcy, Brown, Senior
Sunderland: McLaughlin; O’Nien, Flanagan, Willis, Hume (McLaughlin, 45); Gooch, Dobson, Leadbitter (Power, 73), McGeady; Maguire (Wyke 67), Grigg
Subs: Burge, Ozturk, McGeouch, Embleton
Bookings: Hume, 16 Chicksen, 55 Buckley, 80 Power, 86 Flanagan, 90
Attendance: 12, 726 (4,037 away)