After a slow start to proceedings the match burst into life with good chances from Patrick Van Aanholt, Peter Crouch and Marko Arnautovic but failed to make the breakthrough in the first period.
Arnautovic fired the home side into an early lead at the beginning of the second period before been quickly replaced. Both sides had good chances through Jon Walters and Defoe as the game crept into the latter stages but a late spot kick from Defoe saved a point for the Black Cats.
Sam Allardyce's side headed to North West looking to their extend their minimal gap above the relegation zone and had a good opportunity to take an early lead nine minutes in.
Van Aanholt tried a shot from distance and Jermain Defoe tried to get something on it as sped towards goal but the knick could only help it out past Jakob Haugaard's post.
Mark Hughes' side came into the match desperate to return to winning ways after four matches without a win and on his return to the side, Crouch had two great opportunities to put his side ahead.
The first came in the 18th minute when he used his height to get the header off and the incoming Arnautovic seemingly distracted Vito Mannone but the Italian did well to tip it away.
He was there again eight minutes later when he rose above Lamine Kone to get on the end of Phil Bardsley's diagonal ball into the area but the striker's effort just glanced past the post.
Potters top scorer Arnautovic had the best opportunity of the first period when he had acres of space on the far left of the area after he picked up Gianelli Imbula's ball but ultimately he sliced away the golden opportunity high and wide.
Any of Allardyce's half-time plans were thrown out of the window just five minutes after the restart when Stoke got themselves ahead.
Charlie Adam played a great ball onto the head of Crouch and despite Sunderland's appeals for a foul on Younes Kaboul, Arnautovic used the bounce to deceive Kone before firing beyond Mannone.
They looked to be through once again in the 67th minute when Imbula played a great through ball which seemingly sliced open the Sunderland defence as the ball reached Xherdan Shaqiri but Kaboul did brilliantly with the covering slide tackle.
Walters nearly made an impact after coming on for the Austrian as he managed to get his head to Shaqiri's cross looking to knock it back to Crouch but Mannone was brave to get low and smother the effort.
Defoe had opportunities few and far between but when he was presented with a chance from Jan Kirchoff's flick, he failed to deliver as the pressure from the Stoke defence as he juggled the ball saw his eventual shot sail over.
It looked all but over for Allardyce's side as the game entered second-half extra-time but there proved to be another twist in the tale of the Premier League's relegation battle as Sunderland were handed a penalty.
Defoe looked to create one more opportunity as he looked to turn Geoff Cameron but was clipped and Craig Pawson had no hesitation to point to the spot and Defoe made no mistake as slotted home to save a point for Allardyce's side.