Sunderland were forced to settle for a frustrating point against Luton Town that keeps them third in the League One table.
Both sides finished with ten men as Luton secured a draw thanks to a controversial penalty early in the second half.
Chris Maguire had put Sunderland in the driving seat during what was a superb contest but then saw red for a challenge on Allan McCormack.
The Black Cats will still climb into the automatic promotion places should they win their game in hand on the Hatters.
As expected, Luton Town changed little in the wake of Nathan Jones' departure.
Under the guise of former Black Cat Mick Harford and with well over 3,000 fans in tow, they set up in their usual diamond formation and played with real intensity.
Elliot Lee flashed an effort wide from distance in the opening moments before Jon McLaughlin made a superb double save.
First he blocked a firm free kick from James Justin, before clawing away Andrew Shinnie's effort as the ball broke to the edge of the area.
The visitors looked powerful but Sunderland began to play their way into the game and went ahead after a fine, sweeping move. They worked it over to Lynden Gooch in space on the
right, who cut inside and saw his effort blocked.
The ball fell for Chris Maguire, who took one touch to tee himself up before rifling a half volley into the bottom corner.
McLaughlin was forced into his best save yet when Lee powered towards the byline on the left. He cut it back well for James Collins but the Scot did superbly to use his boot again,
clearing the ball from danger.
The action swept from end to end, both sides playing some excellent football.
Sunderland created few clear openings in the rest of the half but were always a threat, a couple of good crosses just deserting Charlie Wyke in the box.
Luton began the second half well and were fortunate that James Justin could only shoot over the bar after making a good overlapping run into the box.
The game continued its first half rhythm, both sides threatening in an open contest.
Sunderland coped well enough but found themselves level with 20 minutes to play.
Maguire lost the ball in a dangerous area, allowing Andrew Shinnie to shoot from distance. His effort hit the post, and while Jack Baldwin did well to block from James Collins, the referee
pointed to the spot for a foul.
Collins stepped up to thump the penalty straight down the middle.
Any momentum the visitors hoped to gain from that was soon lost when Danny Hylton saw red, the striker swinging an elbow as he challenged for a goal kick.
Sunderland almost took the lead when they broke from a corner shortly after, Aiden McGeady carrying the ball towards goal and ratting the crossbar. James Shea was well beaten in the
Luton goal but Wyke could only head the rebound over the bar.
Jack Ross threw Benji Kimpioka into the action and the 18-year-old forced a save from Shea when he headed a Chris Maguire cross at goal.
Luton were effectively slowing the game down, however, frustrating the home support by taking time out of the game wherever possible.
They come close to a winner of their own when Shinnie found space again and took aim, McLaughlin turning the ball over.
The sides were evened out when Maguire appeared to kick out at McCormack, shown a straight red by Lee Probert.
That was the last significant action of a remarkable game.
Sunderland XI: McLaughlin; O'Nien, Flanagan, Baldwin, James (Oviedo, 86); McGeouch, Power; Gooch (Kimpioka, 78), Maguire, McGeady; Wyke
Subs: Ruiter, Matthews, Ozturk, Mumba, Dunne
Luton Town XI: Shea; Stacey, Bradley, Pearson, Justin; Ruddock, McCormack, Lee (Berry, 78), Shinnie; Collins, Hylton
Subs: Potts, Thorne, LuaLua, Jones, Isted, Sheehan
Bookings: Flanagan, 44 Lee, 45 Shinnie, 61 James, 74 Collins, 79 McCormack, 90
Red Card: Hylton, 70 Maguire, 90
Attendance: 37, 791 (3,081 away)