Aruna Dindane's header in the sixth minute of stoppage time earned Portsmouth a 1-1 draw with Sunderland and finally gave the beleaguered club's long-suffering supporters something to cheer about.
Darren Bent's 12th-minute penalty had put Sunderland on course for their first win since November but Steve Bruce's side, reduced to nine men by the end, buckled under a late onslaught from the Premier League's basement club. Portsmouth had made five changes from the side thrashed 5-0 by Manchester United at the weekend. But it was to no avail as Bent fired Sunderland into the lead from the penalty spot with only 11 minutes gone.
The England striker had earned the spot-kick himself by running on to Kenwyne Jones's backheel into the box only to be sent sprawling by Ricardo Rocha's challenge. Referee Kevin Friend initially waved his red card at Hassan Yebda and the Algerian was on his way to the dressing room before Rocha called him back and accepted responsibility for his misdemeanour. Bent's spot-kick left his England team-mate David James with no chance as it found the net off the inside of the post.
The home side might have equalised midway through the opening period after Frederic Piquionne's header put Dindane into a one-on-one with Craig Gordon, the Sunderland goalkeeper. It was Gordon who came out top in the duel with the Scotland goalkeeper sticking out a leg to frustrate the striker. Jamie O'Hara, the on-loan Tottenham midfielder, was Portsmouth's most lively player and he was narrowly off target with a long range effort.
Pompey boss Avram Grant was forced to watch the second half from the directors' box following a robust exchange of views with the referee at half-time. The official levelled things up on the numbers front by handing Lee Cattermole two yellow cards in quick succession, but he infuriated Grant once more when he failed to award a penalty after George McCartney appeared to bring down Piquionne.
With the hosts throwing everyone forward, Sunderland had chances to add to their score on the break. The best of them fell to Bent but he was denied by a fine stop from James and, from the resulting corner, Matt Kilgallon struck the inside of the post with a volley from the edge of the penalty area.
Sunderland were reduced to nine men when substitute David Meyler was given a straight red card following a clash with Steve Finnan two minutes after coming off the bench. There was still more drama to come however with Dindane heading home from O'Hara's cross to secure a point and leave Sunderland deflated.
"Two of them (red cards) are stupid, you can't defend them," Bruce said. "We didn't need to give him a decision to make. I can't defend the two of them and it's cost us the match. We needed to be more professional and not do anything stupid. And we did that."