Sunderland AFC put in one of their most determined and positive performances of the season against Millwall, but a second-half effort from Adam Matthews wasn't enough to change the 2-2 scoreline or stop the club becoming the first club in English football history to not win in their last 20 matches at home.
The opening minutes for The Black Cats couldn't have gone more according to plan with Lewis Grabban giving them an early lead after half-chances from Conor McLaughlin and Aiden McGeady, however it went very bad, very quickly for Robbie Stockdale's side as two free-kick's in four minutes from George Saville saw them behind at the break.
Sunderland found themselves right back in it with Adam Matthews' equaliser right after the restart before a foul denied Grabban giving them the lead once again, both sides continued to push eachother as the half went on with chances for; Lee Gregory, Shane Ferguson, Grabban and Callum McManaman but wasn't enough to stop Sunderland playing out their 20th match at the Stadium of Light with no win.
Both testing the waters early on
It was a Saturday of both hope and remembrance at the Stadium of Light with Chris Coleman expected to taking the hot seat on Wearside in the coming days and the game been dedicated to the 'For Bradley For Everyone' initiative, Coleman's decision to quit his role with Wales for the challenge of Sunderland has surprised many but it was clear his seemingly future players wanted to impress their new boss.
However it was the visitors who first tested the waters inside six minutes, a cross from Ferguson was cleared by skipper John O'Shea but only as far as McLaughin who teed it up on the edge of the area but it was nowhere near to trouble Robbin Ruiter.
It was then the turn of the home side to try and have a crack at goal, McGeady had options as he crept towards the danger zone before deciding to go it alone which forced Jordan Archer to push it behind.
Taking a crucial early lead
The Black Cats were going to need a stroke of luck if they were to avoid the dreaded English football record hanging over their heads, and that luck came in the form of a goalkeeping error in the 12th minute to give them the lead.
One of the subsequent corners following on from McGeady's chance looked simple enough for Archer to collect as it curled into the near post, however his failure to latch onto it handed the chance to Grabban to take on his chest before stabbing it home from close-range. .
Piling on even more misery
Many Sunderland fans will have been forgiven for not getting their hopes up despite taking an early, and those who remained pessimistic were reluctantly rewarded as Neil Harris' side turned the clash on it's head to take the lead.
Play had been stopped for an injury to Jonny Williams which saw him replaced, but when play resumed Millwall were handed a very dangerous set-piece opportunity just outside the area.
Saville stood over it and his swinging effort towards the near post looked easy enough for Ruiter, however the Dutchman not only followed suit but went one better than Archer as it slipped through his hands and into the net.
Sunderland's misery was heightened minutes later and once again the blame fell at the feet of Ruiter, it was very much a case of Déjà vu as Saville stood over another free-kick in a very similar position. The 24-year-old even chose to aim for the same corner with the same curl to the ball, and it had the same outcome as Ruiter's slow movement could only see him help the ball on its way into the side-netting.
It was clear from the capitulation that Coleman would have a lot of work on his hands, Sunderland continued to try and push for an equaliser but their lack of confidence in front of goal was evident. That was optimised in the 33rd minute as McGeady's dinked ball into the area was headed onto Duncan Watmore, he cut inside with the goal at his mercy but opted for the cross which came to nothing.
Another goal, another error
The words of Stockdale were still ringing in the ears of the Sunderland players as they made their way out for the second period, and couldn't have asked for a better start as they equalised seconds after the restart.
Once again it was seemingly harmless situation as Matthews bombed down the right and whipped the ball into the danger zone, it whizzed past the head of the defender but that proved no saviour for Archer as he produced another howler to push into his own goal.
The 52nd minute caused the 26,000-plus Sunderland fans to bring the roof off the place as they had the ball in the net again, Grabban got his head down amongst the boots to place his header into the far corner but referee Tim Robinson cut short those celebrations as he blew up for a foul.
Turning the screw to no avail
Their performance in the early minutes of the second period seemingly gave Stockdale's side a much needed boost, but Harris' side also struggling down near the bottom of the Championship the affair became an open one as the minutes began to tick down.
There were a few half-cut chances here and there from both sides but Ruiter was called upon in the 71st minute to keep his side in it, Gregory did well to take control of the ball inside the area before hitting it on the spin. His shot looked to have taken a slight deflection on the way through, but the Dutch keeper did well to regain some pride with an excellent one-handed save.
A mistake seconds later nearly killed them off as Ferguson did well to regain possession and make a run on goal, he opted to hit one from distance which had Ruiter flying across his goal but it was wide of the mark.
Despite been under quash Sunderland continued to push their London counterparts as they looked to avoid that dreaded record, a handball appeal from Bryan Oviedo turned into a decent opportunity as Marc Wilson continued to be alive to the situation.
He won the ball back for whipping it into the area looking for the head of Grabban, the small Millwall contingent will have had their hearts in their mouths as it looped towards Archer, but it was too simple for him to collect safely.
In the modern game golden opportunities don't come around very often and in Sunderland's case less than the average, but with five minutes to play such a chance came knocking for the Black Cats.
The ball from McGeady was perfect as he curled it into the danger zone, but cruel lady fate worked against them once again as it curled away from both the boots of O'Shea and Grabban and wide.
Sunderland continued to push and push and push as the second-half entered it's additional minutes, Grabban looked for one last roll of the dice as he fed McManaman but he was denied the hero's ending as he lifted it well over the crossbar.