Marouane Fellaini struck late on to deny Sunderland victory as Everton claimed a fourth successive Barclays Premier League draw.

The midfielder blasted home an 85th-minute equaliser to deny the Black Cats what would have been only their second league win in 10 attempts since they beat Liverpool on Wearside on October 17.

Steve Bruce's men looked to be on their way when Darren Bent headed home his 11th goal of the season with 17 minutes gone.

But as chances went begging at either end, the injury-plagued Merseysiders grew in confidence and, with the home side retreating ever deeper into their own half, they struck at the death to ensure they left with something to show for their efforts.

Everton will now head into Monday's home clash with Burnley hoping for a first Premier League win in eight attempts.

Sunderland, for their part, will make the trip to Blackburn having taken only two points from their last three home games, having seen victory snatched from their grasp late on by both the Toffees and Portsmouth either side of defeat at the hands of high-flying Aston Villa.

It was the home side who staked their claim first, and Bent could easily have collected a hat-trick within the opening 21 minutes as a central defensive pairing of Lucas Neill and John Heitinga struggled to contain he and strike partner Kenwyne Jones.

The unmarked England international should have done better when Andy Reid picked him out 12 yards from goal with a sixth-minute free-kick, but he powered his header wide of the target.

However, he made no mistake 11 minutes later when he timed his run to perfection to meet Jones' cross with a firm downward header which comprehensively beat keeper Tim Howard.

It might have been 2-0 within four minutes after midfielder Jordan Henderson made the most of Everton's inability to clear their lines wide on the left and surged into the box before pulling the ball back to the near post.

Bent's flick turned it across goal, but Neill got in an important block to save his side any further punishment.

But the visitors, who had earlier seen Leon Osman clip the outside of the post with a sixth-minute effort and Louis Saha twice fire wide from promising positions, responded well.

Fellaini and Leon Osman increasingly made their presence felt in the middle of the field, but with Saha and Tim Cahill seeing little of the ball where it mattered, Marton Fulop's goal was rarely under any genuine threat.

However, the worry for Bruce was his side's recent failure to kill off sides, and with memories of Pompey's late fightback to snatch a point from their recent trip to the Stadium of Light despite playing second fiddle for long periods still fresh in his mind, there could be little doubt over the theme of his half-time team-talk.

But it was whatever Moyes said at the break which appeared to have the desired effect as the Toffees returned in determined fashion.

They won a corner within seconds of the restart and Fellaini got above Jones to meet Leighton Baines' corner and send a header just wide of the post.

Sunderland found themselves under increasing pressure and John Mensah had to intervene twice in quick succession as Saha threatened to burst clear.

They enjoyed an escape with 54 minutes gone when, after Diniyar Bilyaletdinov had helped on another Baines corner, Saha volleyed just wide.

But Everton were almost caught on the break on the hour when Bent picked up possession on halfway and then headed upfield before picking out substitute Bolo Zenden, who cut inside and forced Howard into a solid save.

The American needed his full reach to turn over Paulo da Silva's powerful header from a 68th-minute Reid free-kick with the game becoming ever more open.

But Steven Pienaar whistled a long-range effort just wide and Saha pulled another shot across the face of goal with the visitors starting to make their final push.

They finally got their reward with five minutes remaining when Fellaini controlled Tony Hibbert's cross before smashing a shot high into the net to snatch a point.

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#Sunderland
#Internationals
#Football
#Premier League
#Marouane Fellaini
#Everton
#Darren Bent