Former Manchester United defender John O’Shea rescued a point for Paolo di Canio’s side, already a man down after Craig Gardner was sent off, when he scored from close range in the 63rd minute following a corner.
Jon Walters had given Stoke a ninth minute lead, reacting first to fire home after his header from Charlie Adam’s cross was blocked.
Then, for the second match in a row, Sunderland found themselves down to 10-men after Gardner was shown a straight red card by referee Lee Mason for an over the ball one-footed challenge on Adam.
The draw left Sunderland as one of three teams on 38 points (above Norwich and Newcastle on goal difference) and three points clear with two games to play of Wigan, who currently occupy the third and final relegation place.
However Wigan can move onto 38 points if they win at home to Swansea on Tuesday. If Wigan do win, then 40 points would not be enough to avoid the drop this season, meaning that there will be a lot of nervous teams heading into the last two games of the season.
Sunderland’s advantage is their superior goal difference over the teams around them. It is like having an extra point compared to Newcastle and Norwich.