Malky Mackay was sacked as manager by Cardiff owner Vincent Tan on Friday following the acrimonious breakdown of their relationship. Malaysian tycoon Tan claimed he had no choice but to axe the popular Mackay because the Scot was revealing too much about the behind-the-scenes power struggle at the English Premier League club.
Just 24 hours after Mackay's departure, the Bluebirds, led by caretaker bosses David Kerslake and Joe McBride, were unable to ease the angst in south Wales after blowing a two-goal lead at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Goals from Jordan Mutch and Fraizer Campbell had put Cardiff in control, but Steven Fletcher got one back with seven minutes left and Jack Colback capped a remarkable finish with an equaliser in the final seconds.
Cardiff remain 16th, two points above the relegation zone, while Sunderland stay bottom of the table.
Mackay's departure didn't seem to have shattered his former players' morale and they made a flying start in the sixth minute.
Campbell stole possession in midfield and Mutch seized on the loose ball, surging towards the edge of the penalty area before driving in a powerful strike that took a slight deflection off Modibo Diakite as it flashed past goalkeeper Vito Mannone.
There was real energy about Cardiff and Korea Republic midfielder Kim Bo-Kyung forced Mannone to tip over with a fierce long-range effort.
Sunderland finally found some momentum and should have been level before half-time.
Ki Sung-Yueng's deflected shot was pushed out by goalkeeper David Marshall to Jozy Altidore, who had the goal at his mercy but could only scuff his shot wide from close-range.
Fabio Borini's long-range strike was well saved by Marshall soon after and the Italian was denied by an even better stop when the Cardiff keeper turned away his first-time shot. Former Sunderland forward Campbell appeared to have killed off his old club in the 58th minute.
Mutch whipped over a cross from the left and Campbell, given far too much space by Sunderland's sloppy marking, pounced with a clinical close-range finish. But Fletcher reduced the deficit when he poked home from Emanuele Giaccherini's cross in the 83rd minute.
That set the stage for a tense finale, with Sunderland's Valentin Roberge denied an equaliser by Marshall's reflex save. Sunderland kept pressing and they were rewarded in the fifth minute of stoppage-time when Colback's shot clipped off Steven Caulker and looped into the net, leaving Tan and Cardiff's players stunned.r