A fixture with no notable previous history is developing a reputation for bizarre goals. After last season's one that bounced off a beach ball to help Sunderland to victory came a strike here that benefited Liverpool. Of greater note for them, however, will be another disappointing result and the lingering sense that this remains a troubled club.
This was meant to be the sunlight after the storm that was Wednesday's humiliating defeat to Northampton Town, when the regulars returned to the team and inspired the win that would restore pride and kick-start Liverpool's stuttering start to the season. Instead the hosts looked disjointed and at times utterly clueless. They were lucky to draw.
Roy Hodgson did not see it that way, claiming his team were "worth a point" given the chances they created after recovering from going 2-1 down. The manager admitted, however, that his men are not playing in a manner that suggests they can reclaim a Champions League place and it will need "time" and "work" for them to gel into a cohesive unit.
What must become an instant priority for Hodgson is restoring Fernando Torres's goalscoring threat after he again looked like a lost soul. Torres was left stranded by his team-mates despite their lining up in a 4-2-2-1-1 formation in which Dirk Kuyt, on his return from a shoulder injury, was meant to play just off the striker with Joe Cole and Raul Meireles joining from a midfield anchored by Steven Gerrard and Christian Poulsen. The tactic worked initially but then disintegrated quickly, resulting in stray passes and empty spaces appearing everywhere.
"There are lots of new players coming together and we have not had much time. The more we work together the better we will become," Hodgson said. "I'm sure the fans will join me in appreciating the determination and effort of the players today."
That was hardly evident from the supporters who, as planned, used this match as a means to protest again against the club's American owners. Joy was instead witnessed in the away section in appreciation of a performance by the visitors that combined pressure with eye-catching penetration. That was no more so apparent than in the build-up to Sunderland's second goal, in which Jordan Henderson won a header from Poulsen and passed the ball quickly to Steed Malbranque, who in turn found Nedum Onuoha on the right-wing from where the full-back delivered a cross Darren Bent could not help but convert.
It was the striker's sixth goal of the season and his second of the game following the penalty on 25 minutes which cancelled out the goal this game will be best remembered for. The visitors were awarded a free-kick just outside their area on five minutes. Michael Turner nudged the ball back towards his goalkeeper Simon Mignolet but it was short enough for Torres to intercept before playing a pass for Kuyt to score.
Sunderland complained that Turner had not taken the free-kick and was instead moving the ball into position for Mignolet to take the set piece instead but the referee, Stuart Attwell, ignored their protests.
"Everyone in the ground knew Michael Turner had not taken the free-kick," Steve Bruce said. "It was a crazy goal and instead of talking about a fantastic performance by my team I'm talking about the referee."
However, the Premier League's refereeing body later issued a statement backing Attwell, saying it believes "the correct decisions were made". "The referee is required to 'indicate the restart of the match' ... These gestures can be minimal ... There is no requirement by law to use the whistle ... The referee [also] correctly determined that the free-kick was played from the right place."
Having scored late to earn a draw against Arsenal last week, the visitors again showed character, working aggressively in midfield and in Bent having a forward who is excelling in leading the line.
The 26-year-old appeared to have condemned Liverpool to a third consecutive defeat but they exerted enough pressure to equalise on 64 minutes, with Steven Gerrard converting Torres's cross with a powerful header. David Ngog and Daniel Agger had chances to win the game for Liverpool but Sunderland deservedly survived.
THE FANS' PLAYER RATINGS AND VERDICT STEPHANIE JONES, Observer reader It wasn't the greatest day. We got off to a good start but after that we weren't dynamic and we had a terrible patch when they got their two goals. The performances are a manifestation of what is going on off the pitch. This has been threatening for a long time. Last year we had a manager who kept it together but now it's like the damn has burst. The protests after the game were encouraging. As our manager put it "a group of people", otherwise known as the supporters, are trying to do something about the ownership. We've been lied to constantly and we don't know who to trust.
The fan's player ratings Reina 7; Johnson 5, Carragher 6, Skrtel 6, Konchesky 6 (Agger 28 7); Gerrard 7, Poulsen 5 (Ngog 61 6), Meireles 6, Cole 7; Kuyt 5; Torres 7
PETE SIXSMITH, SalutSunderland.com It was by far our best performance of the season and we just about deserved to shade it. Cattermole and Malbranque were outstanding - tackling well and using the ball far more effectively than their allegedly superior counterparts. Their opener is still a mystery to me but we came back really well and showed a lot of character and inner-strength. At first there was confusion about what happened with the goal but we managed to piece it together. To me it's a fundamental refereeing error. Overall, it's a good result, but we need to turn worthy draws into wins.
The fan's player ratings Mignolet 7; Onuoha 7, Bramble 7, Turner 7, Bardsley 8; Elmohamady 8, Henderson 7, Cattermole 8, Malbranque 8 (Riveros 88 n/a), Welbeck 6 (Gyan 81 7); Bent 7 (Zenden 90 n/a)
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