Sunderland 1-1 Southampton
SUNDERLAND took another step towards Premier League survival on Sunday afternoon as they drew with Southampton, meaning a Wigan loss on Tuesday night would see the Black Cats safe.
Paolo Di Canio's side took the lead in the 68th minute when Phil Bardsley let rip to open his account for the season in style.
Southampton drew level just eight minutes later when substitute Jason Puncheon levelled with an improvised effort from close-range.
With Craig Gardner and Stephane Sessegnon both suspended, Di Canio brought Bardsley into his starting XI at right-back. Connor Wickham was fit enough for a place among the substitutes.
Saints' boss Mauricio Pochettino, without Gaston Ramirez or Guly Do Prado, started Steven Davis behind Rickie Lambert with Adam Lallana pushed out wide.
The visitors had the first chance of note when Jay Rodriguez tested Simon Mignolet on his 100th Black Cats' with a low left-footed effort from a corner kick; the Belgian equal to Rodriguez's effort.
Sunderland fashioned their first opportunity from a corner too - Adam Johnson connecting with John O'Shea's knockdown - only to find Artur Boruc in the way.
Lambert could have opened the scoring shortly before the break, but he was unable to find a way past the outstretched foot of Mignolet when one-on-one.
Rodriguez carved out another chance from a set-piece after the break, meeting a corner with firm header only for Mignolet to get down acrobatically and palm the ball to safety.
With 22 minutes left to play, Sunderland finally troubled Boruc when Bardsley took control of the ball inside the visitor's penalty area and fired past the Polish 'keeper from the right-hand side of the penalty area and into the top corner with aplomb.
The lead would be short-lived however and not long after entering the fray as a substitute, Puncheon flicked home to equalise instinctively after his initial header had been blocked.
Lambert could have won the tie late on, but his half-volley across the face of goal was pushed to safety by the sprawling Mignolet.
A point means that Southampton will be safe if Wigan fail to beat Arsenal on Tuesday night and whilst Sunderland would not be mathematically safe unless the Gunners beat the F.A Cup winners, the Lads' superior goal difference would mean an 11-goal swing was needed on the final day if Wigan were to draw on Tuesday.
Sunderland: Mignolet; Bardsley, O'Shea, Cuellar, Rose; Larsson (Vaughan), N'Diaye, Colback, McClean (Wickham); Johnson; Graham.
Subs not used: Westwood (GK), Kilgallon, Mangane, Marrs & Mandron.
Southampton: Boruc; Clyne, Fonte, Hoovield, Shaw; Schneiderlin, Cork (Ward-Prowse); Rodriguez, S.Davis, Lallana (c) (Puncheon); Lambert.
Subs not used: K.Davis (GK), Yoshida, Forren & Mayuka.
Attendance: 41 988
Referee: Mr M Dean.