Maddix 43, Gallen 51
Phillips 32, Quinn 90
Half-time: 1-1 Attendance: 17,128
IN KEEPING with their supporters, who arrived in such large numbers that the kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes, Sunderland left it late on the pitch too. And by the time Niall Quinn equalised from Michael Bridges' cross with barely a minute of injury time remaining, it was 5pm and QPR must have wished the game had long been wrapped up.
But Sunderland, who had enjoyed the vast majority of the possession in the second half despite having Kevin Ball sent off on the stroke of half- time, rewarded their fans with a last-gasp effort that will not win any goal of the month competitions but improved their lead at the top of Division One by a solitary, possibly precious point, come the final promotion reckoning in May.
And, in the circumstances, the Sunderland manager Peter Reid acclaimed this draw as worthy of a victory, calling the players' fighting spirit a quality that "money can't buy". Yet Reid evaded questions as to his opinion on Ball's dismissal with a shimmy that he rarely managed in his playing days.
Four minutes after QPR had equalised through Danny Maddix, Ball needlessly lunged in on Ian Baraclough in the centre circle, Reid's only comment being "If I say anything about the sending-off, it might cost me a few quid and my opinion won't change anything".
But Sunderland looked far from having to rely on a last-ditch equaliser when Kevin Phillips, back after four months out injured, put them in front after 33 minutes with an instinctive half-volley just inside the penalty box from Gavin McCann's cross.
QPR reacted positively, something the manager Gerry Francis felt they would not have done before he arrived in October, and it was the central defender Maddix who equalised four minutes before the break. Iain Dowie had shown up Sunderland's aerial vulnerability earlier and Maddix capitalised on this weakness to produce a near-post header that flashed past Thomas Sorenson.
That was the beginning of eight minutes of chaos for the visitors that almost condemned them to their third defeat of the season as Ball was sent off and seven minutes into the second half QPR took the lead.
With 10-man Sunderland forced to reorganise, Chris Kiwomya broke away to cross from the byline, and Dowie was on hand at the far post to knock back to Kevin Gallen, who had the simplest of tasks to score. Kiwomya had a chance to settle the match too, before Quinn's late, late show began.