At least Ronny Rosenthal had the decency to hit the woodwork. Carlos Tevez couldn't even manage that as, 18 years on, he relieved the Israeli of his unwanted place in Premier League folklore and the pantheon of inexplicably squandered chances.
It's rather too early to talk of pivotal moments barely a fortnight into a nine-month campaign, but Manchester City could live to rue the dropped points and Tevez's astonishing first-half miss that preceded it. Tevez will earn his side far more points that he costs them this season, but it's fair to say that, for the next few weeks at least, he'll owe his team-mates in the wake of a 16th-minute aberration which defined this contest even more than Darren Bent's winning penalty in the fourth minute of stoppage-time.
City's new-found defensive resilience at least looked like it would earn them a share of the spoils, but that crumb of comfort was swept away in controversial fashion. For City, it proved a bitter way to celebrate the second anniversary of becoming the world's richest club, following the takeover by Sheikh Mansour. The visitors hadn't conceded a goal in almost nine hours of football, and looked set for a fifth consecutive clean sheet to start the season until Micah Richards wrestled Bent to the ground as they both sought to get on the end of an inviting Ahmed Elmohamady cross six yards out.
The referee, Mike Dean, was ideally placed and ruled the City defender had been rather too muscular in his attempts to halt the forward's run. The protests were predictably vociferous but, whether committed in the first minute or the 94th, it was a foul. Entrusted with the decisive kick of the match, Bent's effort was far from convincing – Joe Hart diving over the low effort – but it nevertheless found the back of the net. "I'm not letting him take another one after that," the Sunderland manager Steve Bruce said.
Bent's fourth goal of the season – he has scored four of Sunderland five goals this season and it is over a year since they won a game without him making a contribution on the scoresheet – was converted from roughly same spot as, 74 minutes earlier, Tevez had showed he is human after all.
With Sunderland struggling to cover a rapier-like counter-attack after Kieran Richardson's shot had been blocked on the edge of the City area, Yaya Touré sped past Lee Cattermole with contemptuous ease, the midfielder striding into the box to provide a perfect cut-back, the visitors seemingly certain to exploit a three-on one situation. Tevez clearly thought the job had been done, as he leant back to sky his effort from a dozen yards.
"We had the chance for Carlos, but there were three or four other situations, incredible chances, where we could have scored," Roberto Mancini insisted. The City manager, Arsène Wenger-like in his insistence of not having had a proper view of the late penalty, added: "If you don't score when you're on top like we were, you can end up losing. Football can be strange like that."
Sunderland were forced into a double half-time substitution by injuries to Michael Turner and Fraizer Campbell – the latter could be sidelined for some time with knee ligament damage. The introduction of the former City trialist Danny Welbeck to support Bent, who had previously operated as a lone forward, transformed the contest, although Mancini deemed his side culpable in their own downfall. "We sat back in the second half and made it too easy for Sunderland. I don't know why," he said.
That Sunderland made it to stoppage-time with the score level was also thanks to their youthful goalkeeper, Simon Mignolet, who produced a stunning reaction save to thwart the substitute Emmanuel Adebayor from close range. It was an even better stop than the one before the break, which kept out Yaya Touré's angled effort from half-a-dozen yards.
Bruce was clearly relieved at the result: "We rode our luck," he commented after the match. "I don't think Tevez will miss another like that again in his career." If he does, Rosenthal will be the first to log on to check it out.
Sunderland 4-4-1-1: Mignolet; Ferdinand, Turner (Bardsley, 46), Bramble, Richardson, Elmohamady, Henderson, Cattermole, Malbranque; Campbell (Welbeck, 46); Bent. Substitutes not used Carson (gk), Zenden, Riveros, Waghorn, Colback.
Manchester City 4-3-3: Hart; Richards, K Touré, Kompany, Lescott; De Jong, Y Touré, Barry; Johnson (Silva, 81), Tevez (Jo, 90), Milner. Substitutes not used Given (gk), Zabaleta, Wright-Phillips, Vieira.
Booked De Jong, Richards, K Touré.
Man of the match Y Toure.
Referee M Dean (Wirral)
Attendance 38,610.Reuse content