Following a cautious start, the game burst into life after eight minutes.
Questions had been asked of M’Vila after the Frenchman was awarded a red card in an U-21 game for his new club but the summer loan signing answered his critics by opening his account for the Black Cats with a fine curling free-kick from twenty-five yards out eight minutes in to Saturday’s game at Villa Park.
Three minutes later, Sinclair, back in the starting XI after scoring a hat-trick against Notts County in the Capital One Cup, was very obviously man-handled by Cattermole in the penalty area. Referee Robert Madley wasted no time in pointing to the spot and Sinclair calmly picked himself up and brought the game level, slotting the ball into the bottom left-hand corner as Pantilimon dived the other way.
Westwood came close when he met Hutton’s pass down the right channel but his right-footed effort went narrowly wide.
When Amavi burst down the left and delivered a dangerous cross, Bacuna was visibly frustrated not to be able to make decent contact, allowing the visitors to clear.
Gueye was proving influential in the Villans’ attacking raids and he was a little unfortunate to see his ambitious low drive fly wide in the twenty-fourth minute.
After thirty-six minutes, when Sinclair failed to make contact with Bacuna’s corner, the ball fell to Sanchez, whose angled attempt on goal proved too high.
Richards then found himself crashing into a post as he rose to clear Lens’ cross with a diving header.
Having enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, the hosts went ahead four minutes before the break, thanks to a well-worked team effort. With Gueye’s reverse pass allowing Amavi time and space, Sinclair’s instincts enabled him to latch on to Amavi’s inviting low cross and send the ball into the roof of the net from close range. In securing his brace, Sinclair scored his fifth goal of the week. The rejuvenated number nine has already scored more goals this season than he did in the last three campaigns combined.
Not content with his team’s first half display, Advocaat replaced Graham and Cattermole with Toivonen and Fletcher for the start of the second half as the Villa side remained unchanged.
It proved effective, with Guzan palming away Fletcher’s header, facilitated by Toivonen, four minutes after the restart.
Looking much-improved with a change of left-back, the Black Cats were level after fifty-three minutes, courtesy of Lens, who was helped by a deflection off Richards.
Richards then wasted a golden opportunity to give his side the lead, missing the net from a yard out when he had an open goal to aim for.
With the home side piling on the pressure, Sherwood made his only substitution, sending on Gil in place of Bacuna.
Advocaat made his final substitution after seventy-seven minutes, replacing the impressive Lens with Larsson, who was greeted by a chorus of boos.
Going to ground rather too easily in the eightieth minute, Gil appealed for a penalty but instead found himself booked for diving. Feeling Gil deserved the penalty, Sherwood injured his hamstring as he kicked a water bottle in frustration at Madley’s decision.
Two minutes later, it took a stunning save to keep Westwood’s shot out following Gestede’s knockdown.
With four minutes left on the clock, Gestede was able to turn Kaboul easily but the striker could only smash his shot wide.
The Villans continued to pepper the Sunderland box into injury time but the Wearsiders were able to hang on for the draw.
Speaking post-match, Sherwood said:
“Anyone who watched that game knows that we should have won.
We had twenty-two shots, the keeper has pulled off a ‘worldy ‘save.
My team couldn’t have done any more today.”