John Carew celebrates after equalising for Aston Villa
By Les Roopanarine
Sunderland claimed a point to continue their march towards Premier League safety and put a dent in Aston Villa's Champions League aspirations.
Fraizer Campbell broke the deadlock midway through the first half, beating Brad Friedel with a cool finish after being fed by Kieran Richardson.
John Carew pulled Villa level eight minutes later, neatly volleying home at the far post from Ashley Young's cross.
Both sides had chances subsequently, but neither could force a breakthrough.
The evening's events hardened the impression of two clubs on contrasting trajectories, for while Villa's European push continued to falter, Steve Bruce's resurgent side are finishing the season almost as impressively as they began it.
The facts tell their own story. Though unbeaten in the league in 2010, Villa have now won just three of their 10 games since the turn of the year, drawing the other seven.
Worse yet, this latest damaging stalemate came against a Sunderland side that - for all the upward mobility suggested by a five-game unbeaten run - last won away in the league on the opening weekend of the season.
After the events of Saturday, when Villa were jeered by certain sections of the home support during a 2-2 draw with Wolves, Martin O'Neill threw down the gauntlet to players and fans alike by naming an unchanged side.
The supporters kept their end of the bargain, but despite the noisy backing of the Holte End - and a promising start from Villa - it was Sunderland who took the lead.
There seemed to be little on when a Jordan Henderson clearance fell to Richardson just inside his own half, but the former Manchester United man spotted Campbell's run, splitting the Villa defence with a prodded through-ball.
Campbell did the rest, leaving Stephen Warnock and James Collins trailing in his wake before steering a calm finish around the advancing Friedel.
By then Darren Bent had already had an effort rightly ruled out for offside and, after conceding twice in 15 minutes against Wolves, it will be a source of concern to O'Neill that Villa - who have the Premier League's best defensive record - have suddenly assumed an uncharacteristic air of vulnerability.
In Carew, however, they have a striker in such irresistible form that an early injury to England striker Emile Heskey, who was replaced by the lively youngster Nathan Delfouneso, barely registered.
Heskey limped off after 14 minutes with a suspected Achilles injury and will undergo a scan on Thursday to assess the extent of the problem.
When James Milner fed the ball wide to Ashley Young, and the winger's measured cross reached Carew at the far post, the outcome was inevitable.
High on confidence after scoring twice on Saturday, the Norway international calmly slotted home a side-footed volley to claim his 14th goal of the season in all competitions.
Villa's failure to build on that breakthrough was due partly to their inability to build on some promising build-up play, and partly to some gritty Sunderland defending.
Sunderland grew in defensive authority after the break and were helped enormously by Craig Gordon, who performed sterling service in goal.
Gordon reacted sharply to deny Carew and James Colllins early on, and again came to the rescue shortly after the break when Carew drilled an angled shot low to his left.
Had John Mensah not spurned a priceless opportunity shortly after half-time, Sunderland might even have broken their away hoodoo.
But Mensah hopelessly mistimed a header after Steed Malbranque had found him unmarked with a floated ball into the danger area.
Both Carew and Delfouneso later fizzed wide with headers, while a late Steve Sidwell effort beat Gordon only to sail over the bar. With it went Villa's chances of making up further ground on fourth-placed Tottenham.
Villa manager Martin O'Neill:
"While we've been unbeaten for a considerable time, you'd be hoping that with two consecutive home games we'd have taken four points.
"But it's easier said than done, and we're still in there fighting.
"I'm genuinely pleased with the effort the players are putting in, and I'm very pleased with John Carew's form.
"I think there will be plenty more twists to come in the race for fourth, but our away record is very good and I still think we're in the race."
Sunderland manager Steve Bruce:
"Will 38 points be enough? I would think so but the one thing we can't do is take anything for granted.
"Possibly one more win will be enough but we have got Liverpool on Saturday, Tottenham next week and then West Ham in three weeks time.
"We have done quite well of late and today we proved it. We have been a bit more settled and that has made a difference.
"It has been a tough winter through players missing through injury but we have lost only one of the last nine games, against Arsenal, and we have hit a bit of form.
90:00+1:05 Headed effort from deep inside the penalty area by Nathan Delfouneso misses to the right of the target.
89:47 The referee blows for offside. Free kick taken by Craig Gordon.
88:40 Foul by John Carew on Anton Ferdinand, free kick awarded. Craig Gordon takes the free kick.
86:13 Ashley Young produces a cross, Paulo Da Silva manages to make a clearance. Corner taken left-footed by Stewart Downing.
85:42 Free kick awarded for a foul by John Carew on Lorik Cana. Paulo Da Silva restarts play with the free kick.
79:52 Substitution Lorik Cana is brought on as a substitute for Steed Malbranque.
79:52 Michael Turner challenges John Carew unfairly and gives away a free kick. Ashley Young has a direct shot on goal from the
78:12 The referee blows for offside. Indirect free kick taken by Craig Gordon.
77:31 Inswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Stewart Downing, save by Craig Gordon.
76:13 Substitution Steve Sidwell replaces James Milner.
75:26 The referee blows for offside against Fraizer Campbell. Free kick taken by Brad Friedel.
73:59 Darren Bent takes a shot. Save by Brad Friedel. Corner from the right by-line taken by Kieran Richardson, Stiliyan Petrov
manages to make a clearance.
73:01 Stewart Downing takes a inswinging corner from the right by-line to the near post, Close range header by John Carew goes over
72:38 Ashley Young produces a cross.
72:10 Effort on goal by Lee Cattermole from long range goes over the crossbar.
70:27 Substitution Paulo Da Silva joins the action as a substitute, replacing John Mensah.
69:46 Centre by Ashley Young, clearance made by Anton Ferdinand.
Correction - 66:37 Free kick awarded for a foul by Michael Turner on John Carew. James Milner crosses the ball, Headed effort from deep inside
the area by James Collins misses to the left of the goal.
66:37 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on John Carew by Michael Turner. Free kick crossed by James Milner, Header by James
Collins from deep inside the penalty area misses to the left of the goal.
65:43 John Carew is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Craig Gordon takes the indirect free kick.
62:51 Ashley Young challenges Steed Malbranque unfairly and gives away a free kick. Kieran Richardson takes the direct free kick.
61:25 Fraizer Campbell has an effort at goal from outside the area missing to the wide left of the goal.
60:38 Kieran Richardson takes a shot. Save by Brad Friedel.
60:08 Inswinging corner taken by Kieran Richardson, Carlos Cuellar makes a clearance.
57:47 The ball is swung over by Stephen Warnock, save by Craig Gordon.
55:33 Inswinging corner taken by Ashley Young from the left by-line played to the near post.
54:24 Shot by John Carew from deep inside the penalty area misses to the right of the target.
53:34 The ball is swung over by Nathan Delfouneso, save made by Craig Gordon.
52:22 Free kick awarded for a foul by Lee Cattermole on John Carew. James Milner restarts play with the free kick.
51:05 John Mensah produces a header from deep inside the six-yard box which goes wide of the right-hand post.
50:13 Stewart Downing concedes a free kick for a foul on Steed Malbranque. Alan Hutton takes the free kick.
48:20 Lee Cattermole gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on James Milner. Direct free kick taken by James Collins.
47:34 James Milner takes a shot. Craig Gordon makes a comfortable save.
45:52 Kieran Richardson takes a corner.
45:01 The match restarts for the second half.
45:00+1:02 The ref blows to end the first period.
44:16 Fraizer Campbell has an effort at goal from the edge of the box that misses to the right of the target.
42:03 The referee blows for offside. Brad Friedel restarts play with the free kick.
40:39 Lee Cattermole concedes a free kick for a foul on Stiliyan Petrov. Free kick taken by Richard Dunne.
39:13 Fraizer Campbell takes a shot. Blocked by James Collins. Corner taken by Steed Malbranque from the left by-line, Header on
goal by Michael Turner from inside the box goes harmlessly over the target.
37:55 James Milner decides to take the corner short.
Correction - 29:29 GOAL - John Carew:Aston Villa 1 - 1 Sunderland John Carew gets on the score sheet with a goal from close range to the bottom left corner of the goal. Aston Villa 1-1 Sunderland.
29:29 Assist on the goal came from Ashley Young.
29:29 GOAL - John Carew:Aston Villa 1 - 1 Sunderland A goal is scored by John Carew from close range to the bottom left corner of the goal. Aston Villa 1-1 Sunderland.
Correction - 29:18 Ashley Young crosses the ball,
29:18 A cross is delivered by Ashley Young,
28:24 Ashley Young gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Steed Malbranque. Anton Ferdinand restarts play with the free
28:06 Ashley Young crosses the ball.
24:33 Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Kieran Richardson, Shot by Alan Hutton. Blocked by Richard Dunne. Corner taken right-footed
by Steed Malbranque.
23:48 John Carew is caught offside. Craig Gordon takes the free kick.
21:34 The assist for the goal came from Kieran Richardson.
21:34 GOAL - Fraizer Campbell:Aston Villa 0 - 1 Sunderland Fraizer Campbell finds the back of the net with a goal from the edge of the penalty box low into the middle of the goal. Aston
Villa 0-1 Sunderland.
20:24 Ashley Young has an effort at goal from outside the penalty box missing to the wide right of the goal.
18:16 Unfair challenge on Nathan Delfouneso by Alan Hutton results in a free kick. Ashley Young sends in a cross, James Collins
has a headed effort at goal from close in which goes wide right of the goal.
17:38 The official flags Darren Bent offside. James Collins takes the free kick.
15:27 Ashley Young fouled by Lee Cattermole, the ref awards a free kick. James Collins takes the direct free kick.
14:11 Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Steed Malbranque from the left by-line, James Collins makes a clearance.
13:19 Substitution Nathan Delfouneso joins the action as a substitute, replacing Emile Heskey.
10:52 The ball is sent over by Ashley Young.
9:14 A cross is delivered by Ashley Young, save by Craig Gordon.
6:48 The assistant referee flags for offside against Darren Bent. Free kick taken by Brad Friedel.
5:48 Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Stewart Downing, James Collins takes a shot. Michael Turner gets a block in.
4:27 John Carew takes a shot. Save by Craig Gordon.
0:00 The match gets underway.
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