Spirited comeback saves Sunderland
Ahmed Elmohamady's first goal for Sunderland ensured his side saved a 2-2 draw at home to West Bromwich Albion.
But his players responded to drag themselves back from the brink of disaster. Nicklas Bendtner gave them hope with a 24th-minute strike, his first for the club, and Elmohamady followed suit within two minutes in a chaotic first half.
A rejuvenated Sunderland enjoyed the better of the game from that point on, but were unable to make the pressure tell and had to make do with a point on a day when three were perhaps what was required.
A must-win game in the eyes of many could hardly have started in any more depressing fashion for Bruce when Morrison, one of the smallest men on the pitch, was allowed to meet Chris Brunt's fourth-minute free-kick unchallenged to head home from close range.
However, it was to get much, much worse for Sunderland within seconds. Craig Gardner's efforts to spark his side into life backfired spectacularly when he launched himself into a midfield challenge with Youssouf Mulumbu and saw the ball ricochet into the path of striker Long.
The Republic of Ireland international took full advantage of a flat-footed home defence to slide the ball past Simon Mignolet to send a chorus of boos echoing around the Stadium of Light.
Bendtner begins comeback
But as the dark clouds gathered on Wearside, Bruce's players belatedly summoned up the will to fight their way out of the mire. As Gardner and captain Lee Cattermole finally managed to make an impression in the middle of the field, the lively Stephane Sessegnon was able to make his presence felt and start to link with lone striker Bendtner.
They grabbed themselves a lifeline with 24 minutes gone when Sebastian Larsson back-heeled Sessegnon's pass into Bendtner's path and the Dane fired past goalkeeper Ben Foster with the help of a deflection off Gareth McAuley.
The on-loan Arsenal striker turned provider two minutes later when he crossed for Elmohamady to head home an equaliser which blew the game wide-open once again.
Having dragged themselves back into the contest, Sunderland had the impetus and went close to taking the lead in injury time when Foster had to beat away Gardner's shot on the turn.
But they continued to look fragile at the back, with Wes Brown and Michael Turner struggling to keep Long and Peter Odemwingie at bay, and with Morrison and Brunt probing from midfield, the danger was far from over.
Sunderland grow stronger
That said, the Black Cats should really have been in front within three minutes of the restart when Larsson floated a free-kick over Jonas Olsson's head to find Brown at the far post.
The former Manchester United defender seemed surprised to see Larsson's cross reach him and having reacted late, headed it down into the turf and harmlessly over the bar.
Elmohamady also might have done better with 59 minutes gone, with Sessegnon once again the architect. The Benin international cut inside from the left and rolled the ball into the Egyptian's path into the box, but Foster's positioning was perfect to make a vital block.
West Brom were retreating ever deeper into their own half as Sunderland assumed control, with Sessegnon terrorising the visitors' back four, although at times over-elaborating. But with the home side running out of steam, it was the visitors who finished the stronger, although without ever really threatening to snatch victory.