Sunderland recover from two goals down to salvage a point against Accrington Stanley
Sunderland fought back from two goals down to salvage their unbeaten home record against Accrington Stanley.
But it was another frustrating draw for the Black Cats who dropped more points in the race for automatic promotion.
They looked set to suffer a humiliating defeat when a Billy Kee penalty and a Paul Smyth header put the visitors in a shock lead, but an excellent cameo from Chris Maguire turned the tide.
Sunderland pushed hard for a winner but fell short for the second time in less than a week.
Ross had dropped a selection hint pre-match when he noted how much of a threat Charlie Wyke and Will Grigg had been in the latter stages of the 1-1 draw with Blackpool.
So the pair started together for the first time as the Black Cats boss went for a very attacking 4-4-2.
He had clearly hoped to burst the game open and it started brightly enough for the home side.
Excellent work on the left from Aiden McGeady released Reece James, who advanced to the byline and cleverly cut the ball back to the penalty spot.
He found Will Grigg, who had moved into space but could only slice an effort wide.
The 27-year-old was frustrated again less than ten minutes later when under pressure from Charlie Wyke, a long throw was flicked on towards goal by an Accrington defender.
Grigg beat his marker at the front post but volleyed wide.
Having failed to make the early breakthrough the home side began to lose their composure and the visitors were finding numerous gaps to play through.
The Black Cats had plenty of warnings before going behind half an hour in.
Jimmmy Dunne lost a 50-50 challenge and Accrington broke into the box. Jack Baldwin dived in to try and challenge Paul Smyth but could only bring him down.
It was a clear penalty and emphatically taken by Billy Kee. Jon McLaughlin dived the right way but was comfortably beaten.
From there it got worse for the Black Cats, the home support growing increasingly frustrated as possession was gifted away.
It was the away side who looked the more likely as the break neared, McLaughlin having to make a smart stop as Smyth ran through after yet more indecision in the Sunderland defence.
Sunderland were unfortunate not to get a penalty before half time, with Ross Sykes using his elbow to clear a corner.
Ross resisted the urge to make changes at the interval but within ten minutes they were staring down the barrel.
They should have made it 1-1 when Lynden Gooch released Luke O'Nien, the right back cutting a fine ball across goal. Wyke looked certain to score but somehow turned his effort wide from six yards.
Accrington capitalised shortly after, McConville crossing into the box where Smyth was free to nod home.
Ross had already been readying Chris Maguire and the forward made an instant impact as Sunderland immediately halved the deficit.
His cross to the back post was good, and Will Grigg did brilliantly to hold off the attentions of Janoi Donacien. His touch left Honeyman free to fire home off the inside of the post.
The game was now swinging from end to end and Gooch should have got the Black Cats on level terms when a cross from James found him at the back post, but his effort was poor and straight at Jonny Maxted in the Accrington goal.
The pressure told with half an hour to go and it was again Maguire at the heart of it.
McGeady did superbly to turn in a tight space and run on goal, finding Maguire in space. The substitute looked set to shoot but instead squared it again, where McGeady's composure got his side back on level terms.
Maguire then saw a free kick cleared off the line as the game continue at a remarkable pace.
Accrington were looking to cause problems on the counter but it was still Sunderland carving out all the openings, Grigg seeing two efforts from inside the box blocked by the despairing defence.
The visitors settled a touch but with Ross throwing on Lewis Morgan and Max Power, it was the hosts pushing hardest for the winner.
Grigg came close again when he spun away from his marker, advancing on goal before curling his effort wide from the edge of the area.
Power then stung the palms of Maxted after a patient move as the Black Cats desperately searched for a late winner.
They had the ball in the net just before stoppage time, O'Nien racing onto Power's effort before the flag was correctly raised for offside.
Accrington survived the five minutes of stoppage time to win a point.
Sunderland XI: McLaughlin; O'Nien, Baldwin, Dunne, James; Leadbitter (Power, 81), Gooch (Morgan, 76), Honeyman, McGeady; Wyke (Maguire, 52), Grigg
Subs: Ruiter, Cattermole, McGeouch, Flanagan
Accrington Stanley XI: Maxted; Johnson, Hughes, Sykes (Richards-Everton, 80), Donacien; Clarke, Barlaser, Conneely (Brown, 68), McConville; Kee, Smyth (Armstrong, 68)
Subs: Zanzala, Nolan, Evtimov, Gibson
Bookings: Baldwin, 35 Conneely, 41