Tottenham skipper Robbie Keane blasted home a last-gasp equaliser to deny Sunderland a vital Barclays Premier League victory.
The Republic of Ireland international volleyed home Darren Bent's 89th-minute cross to cancel out Kieran Richardson's third-minute opener and snatch a point for the visitors.
Bent had earlier passed up a glorious 58th-minute chance to level, while Black Cats keeper Marton Fulop had pulled off a fine save to deny Ledley King before the break.
Harry Redknapp handed full-back Pascal Chimbonda a swift return to Sunderland as he looked to further ease Tottenham's relegation fears.
The Frenchman, who left the Stadium of Light after just six months in January, was included in one of four changes to the side which trounced Middlesbrough 4-0 in midweek.
He, Vedran Corluka, Ledley King and former Black Cats target Darren Bent all started at the expense of Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Michael Dawson, Didier Zokora and Roman Pavlyuchenko.
There were changes too for the home side as the injured Anton Ferdinand and Grant Leadbitter made way for Phil Bardsley
and Djibril Cisse.
Chimbonda, a right-back by trade, lined up on the left with Corluka on the opposite flank, and was treated to a hostile reception by the home fans whenever he was on the ball in the early stages.
But the jeers turned to cheers within three minutes of kick-off when when Sunderland midfielder Kieran Richardson was quickest to react to a loose ball after Steed Malbranque slid into a challenge with King.
Richardson's first touch completely wrong-footed Jonathan Woodgate and took him in on goal, and he confidently beat keeper Heurelho Gomes to open the scoring.
Spurs simply could not get going despite the best efforts of Wilson Palacios and Jermaine Jenas in central midfield, and strikers Robbie Keane and Bent were virtual spectators.
However, they created their first opening of the game with 10 minutes gone when Bent prospered down the right to set up Aaron Lennon to cross, and then only just failed to connect with the winger's driven ball in front of goal.
Lennon was the dangerman once again seconds later when he went past Andy Reid and crossed for Keane, but the Irishman's header was weak and Marton Fulop collected under no pressure.
Sunderland re-grouped and went close to a second goal with 19 minutes gone when Kenwyne Jones, a January target for Redknapp, got on the end of Reid's cross, but he could not keep his header down.
Jones' physical presence was causing all kinds of problems for the Spurs defence, and after forcing King to concede an earlier free-kick, he tempted Woodgate into another foul with 25 minutes gone.
However, Jenas climbed well to meet Reid's curling free-kick with a firm header and clear the danger.
But Lennon was a constant threat and kept left-back George McCartney on his toes, and it took a cool header by Bardsley to turn his 28th-minute cross back to Fulop.
Spurs made a push towards the end of the half as the Wearsiders conceded a series of free-kicks.
Bent prompted a regulation save from Fulop with a 33rd-minute shot from 25 yards, but the visitors were almost level seconds later after Jenas took aim from distance following Richardson's foul on Lennon.
The former Newcastle's midfielder's free-kick was blocked, but the rebound fell invitingly to King, whose close-range effort was saved bravely by Fulop.
McCartney and Woodgate went into referee Phil Dowd's notebook in quick succession as the game became increasingly feisty.
Bardsley put his side in trouble with 41 minutes gone when he tried to play the ball out of defence and was dispossessed by Bent.
Although Keane eventually put a cross in, Bent was unable to direct his header at goal.
Reid only just failed to reach Bardsley's through-ball on the stroke of half-time, but the game's early promise had largely evaporated.
Cisse might have doubled Sunderland's advantage within a minute of the restart when he found himself in space on the right. Although he worked his way into the box, his right-footed shot from a tight angle flew into the side-netting.
The visitors were again seeing plenty of the ball but still struggling to find a rhythm as possession repeatedly changed hands too cheaply.
Lennon wasted a glorious opportunity to pick out a team-mate in the box after being played into space down the right, when his low cross was easily cut out by Danny Collins.
Malbranque saw a shot blocked by King seconds later, but Tottenham should really have been back on level terms with 58 minutes gone.
Dean Whitehead's spectacular miscue in he middle of the field put Bent in on goal, but with only Fulop to beat he blasted his left-footed shot high over the bar.
He might have atoned for the error a minute later when he was again played in down the right, but this time he dragged his effort wide of the far post..
The game could have been wrapped up after 62 minutes when Reid picked up the ball on the edge of the penalty area.
His low cross seemed destined for the back of the net as Cisse homed in on it along with a posse of blue shirts, but the ball somehow sailed across the face of goal without anyone getting a touch.
Five minutes later King was relieved to see the ball drop just the right side of the post from his point of view after he and Cisse had jumped for Reid's cross, with the defender getting the last touch.
The visitors were appealing in vain for a penalty with 15 minutes remaining after Bardsley cleared Lennon's cross with more than a hint of hand involved before Luka Modric fired over from the rebound.
Keane lifted a difficult 77th-minute half-volley over the bar after connecting with Corluka's long ball with Spurs fighting all the way to the whistle.
Murphy fired just wide from 25 yards with 11 minutes remaining, but Lennon saw an 86th-minute shot blocked by Ben Haim to deny the visitors a late equaliser.
But his efforts were left to count for nothing when, with Sunderland appealing for a penalty, the visitors broke and Bent crossed for Keane to volley home in fine style and snatch a point.