It was half of very few clear-cut chances and refereeing controversy, Patrick Van Aanholt and Alexis Sanchez both coming close with their respective free-kicks and Mike Dean turned down two questionable decisions in the first period.
Petr Cech was called upon early in the second period with quick-fire opportunities from Defoe, Yann M'Vila and Whabi Khazri but the match faded out from there with half-chances from Danny Welbeck and Sanchez but the Black Cats were more than happy with the point.
Both sides were desperate for three points for their fights at opposite ends of the Premier League table but the first twenty minutes could muster up a few half chances.
They both came within the opening four minutes with Arsenal stepping up first after Sanchez played a one-two with youngster Alex Iwobi but the Nigerian's effort was just wide of Vito Mannone's post.
That was followed by Sunderland's opening chance as Lee Cattermole's over-the-top ball looking for Jermain Defoe but he was beaten to the ball by Cech who punched away.
Both sides showed their danger from a dead-ball situation as they both had excellent opportunities to take the lead from free-kicks.
It was Sam Allardyce's side that stepped up first as Van Aanholt lined up the kick and the curling effort had Cech beaten but it could only clatter off the meeting spot of the post and crossbar.
Arsene Wenger's side looked to better that ten minutes from the break and Sanchez's looked to be nestling into the bottom corner but former Gunner Mannone managed to fly across goal to turn it away.
It was then the turn of Dean to step in and make two potentially huge handball decisions as the half drew to a close.
The Black Cats looked to capitalise as a cross in was poorly dealt with by Hector Bellerin with his header falling straight to Defoe and his strike looked to hit the hand of Per Mertesacker but Dean waved it away.
That was followed by Arsenal's own appeal five minutes from the break as good build-up play from Oliver Giroud saw him tee it up for Iwobi whose shot took a deflection off the foot and then the hand of DeAndre Yedlin but the decision seemed more clean-cut for Dean.
Allardyce's side came flying out of the traps in the second period but Cech was on hand to three good saves for the visitors.
The first came after a great ball from Jan Kirchoff four minutes after the restart which found Defoe who hit a thunderous effort but the keeper did well to beat it away and then put M'Vila's follow-up behind.
Khazri had proven a problem for Wenger's side and was at it again in the 51st minute as he did well to open up the opportunity but Cech got down well to send it wide.
After that early flourish from the home side, the game and it's intensity began to fade away with both sides only able to produce a handful of half-opportunities.
Sunderland had two good chances four minutes apart as Defoe tried to chip Cech in the 64th minute but ultimately it didn't trouble the former Chelsea man. Lamine Kone did well after to get away from his marker to try to get on the end of a corner but the Ivorian was inches away as the ball passed him by.
It was the turn of the visiting side as they had a trio of chances as they looked to solidIfy their position for next season's Champions League.
Mannone had a moment of madness as he came out to header the ball away which he made hash luckily he had Younes Kaboul on hand to seemingly foul Welbeck and then did well to dispossess Theo Walcott.
Welbeck had a opportunity not long after as he did well set up the chance to hit a thunderous shot towards goal but it was straight at the Italian.
Sanchez then looked to create some late magic as did brilliantly to get from inside the box to the outside before trying the effort but again Mannone was equal to it.
The final opportunity of the afternoon fell to Kone who tried the spectacular in second-half extra-time opting for the overhead kick but it was well wide of the desired target.