Stoke-on-Trent - Sunderland sank into the Premier League relegation zone on Saturday after in-form Scottish midfielder Charlie Adam struck to earn Stoke City a 1-1 draw at the Britannia Stadium.
The visitors went ahead after only 58 seconds when Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic spilt a cross from Will Buckley and Sunderland striker Connor Wickham swept the ball home.
But Adam levelled in the 27th minute by crashing a shot into the roof of the net from Marko Arnautovic's lay-off to leave Sunderland in 18th place, a point from safety.
While Mark Hughes's Stoke are sitting pretty in ninth place, Sunderland manager Dick Advocaat has only five games to haul his side out of trouble, culminating in back-to-back away games against Arsenal and Chelsea.
Sunderland's preparations for the game were disturbed by Thursday's news that winger Adam Johnson has been charged with three offences of sexual activity with an under-age girl and one of grooming.
But with Johnson absent from the match-day squad, Sunderland made a positive start and took the lead before some fans had even settled into their seats.
Begovic made a misjudgement as he attempted to claim Buckley's cross and Wickham pounced to stab the ball home from beneath the crossbar.
The goal stung Stoke into action and Adam saw a swerving effort fielded by visiting goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon, who also got down low to parry a shot from Jonathan Walters.
Sunderland had a chance to extend their lead in the 25th minute, only for Jermain Defoe to shoot into the side-netting, and within two minutes their lead had gone.
Smart play between Walters and Arnautovic enabled the latter to turn and tee up Adam, who rifled home his third goal in four matches.
Stoke's fans were given reason to cheer 10 minutes from time when striker Peter Odemwingie came on to make his first appearance since August after a spell on the sidelines with a knee injury.
They might have had even more to shout about three minutes from time, but Adam's drive was tipped away by Pantilimon.