By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Club Reporter
At the Sports Direct Arena
Newcastle United 1 (Ameobi 90)
Sunderland 1 (Bendtner 24pen)
Shola Ameobi netted a stoppage time equaliser as Newcastle United secured a 1-1 draw against local rivals Sunderland at the Sports Direct Arena on Sunday.
It looked as though the hosts were heading for defeat but Ameobi popped up with time ticking away to finish from close range and net the seventh Tyne-Wear derby goal of his career.
Before that, it was a tale of two penalties between United and the ten-man Black Cats - Nicklas Bendtner made no mistake with a first half spot kick to put the visitors ahead, but Demba Ba missed an 82nd-minute one of his own as United's luck appeared to have run out.
Sunderland's penalty was conceded by Mike Williamson for a shirt tug on Michael Turner, and Bendtner had a good chance to make it two soon after, but United came into the game late in the half and Ba struck the crossbar, with Yohan Cabaye and Fabricio Coloccini also threatening.
Substitute Hatem Ben Arfa gave the Magpies an added attacking threat after the break and Sunderland's cause was not helped by the dismissal of Stephane Sessegnon for an elbow on Cheick Tiote.
The hosts pressed and pressed for an equaliser and thought they had the chance when Ameobi was chopped down by Fraizer Campbell, but Ba was unable to beat Mignolet from the penalty spot.
However, Ameobi latched on to a ball at the far post to level things up and maintain Newcastle's unbeaten home record in 2012.
The contest was always going to be ferocious, and Sunderland skipper Lee Cattermole set the tone inside 41 seconds with a late lunge on Tiote that earned the midfielder a very early booking.
Sebastian Larsson was lucky to escape the same action after bringing down Davide Santon wide on the left just a couple of minutes later, but the visitors managed to head clear the resulting in-swinging free-kick from Ryan Taylor.
But it was the Black Cats who created the first real opening on 12 minutes. Bendtner and Larsson combined down the right flank before the latter raced into the area and flashed a low ball right across the face of goal, with no-one able to get a crucial touch on it.
Tempers flared even further soon after when James McClean caught Danny Simpson late with a sliding tackle, causing a melee involving nearly every player, and ending with cautions for both McClean and Simpson.
Additional bookings for Cabaye and Ba saw five yellow cards issued inside the opening 23 minutes, and referee Mike Dean immediately played an even bigger role, awarding Sunderland a penalty for a tug by Williamson on Turner as United defended a free-kick.
Williamson also went into the book and Bendtner cooly stroked the spot-kick past Tim Krul to put the visitors one up.
Only a superb full-length stop from Krul prevented Bendtner from doubling the Black Cats' advantage in the 32nd minute. There looked to be little on when the on-loan Arsenal man received the ball with his back to goal around 20 yards out, but he span and got a shot away which was heading for the bottom corner until Krul's intervention.
The pressure continued and a strike from Craig Gardner took a wicked deflection off Jonas Gutierrez, looping up and just over the bar with Krul completely wrong-footed.
It took 39 minutes for Newcastle to fashion their first chance of the game, and it came through captain Coloccini. Having forced a corner with a deep cross from the right, Taylor delivered the set piece on to the head of Coloccini at the far post, but the defender's effort was well kept out by Sunderland keeper Mignolet.
The Magpies were suddenly fired up and both Cabaye and Taylor saw shots blocked before Ba thundered a header against the crossbar from close range, with Coloccini unable to put the rebound on target, and that was that for first half action.
In a bid to improve his side's fortunes, Newcastle manager Alan Pardew made a change at the break, introducing French forward Ben Arfa for Santon, meaning Taylor slotted into the left-back role that he had occupied during the first half of the season.
Ben Arfa instantly set about making an impact, forcing a corner within seconds of the restart, and it was from this that the hosts carved out a goalscoring opportunity for Ba.
With Sunderland unable to clear their lines properly, Papiss Cisse put over a cross which Ba rose well to meet, but could only direct his header narrowly wide of the upright. And United's top scorer soon put a shot in exactly the same place as the hosts made an impressive start to the second half.
The pressure was incessant as the Magpies forced corner after corner, and Turner was fortunate not to head past his own keeper as yet another ball was slung into the danger zone.
Despite having spent much of the half on the back foot, it was Sunderland who almost snatched a two-goal lead. First, Krul did well to parry an effort from Gardner, and with the loose ball falling kindly at the feet of McClean, the Dutch stopper somehow managed to scramble back to his line to clear with his feet.
Newcastle's task was given a huge boost on 58 minutes when Sessegnon was given his marching orders by Mr Dean. Having been involved in a tussle with Tiote, the front man then swung an arm, catching Tiote in the face, and the referee duly produced a red card.
Chances came and went. Cabaye drove an effort just off target, before midfield partner Tiote had the same outcome from 25 yards, and it was one-way traffic in favour of the side with a one-man advantage.
With just under 20 minutes remaining, Pardew threw on experienced striker Ameobi in place of Cisse, hoping the Academy-bred front man could add to his tally of six Tyne-Wear derby goals and get United back in the contest.
But it was Tiote who was next to try his luck, heading over Taylor's left-wing corner, and Ben Arfa then forced Mignolet into a good stop after tricking his way past two challenges and firing a shot goalwards which looked likely to creep in at the near post.
Mr Dean turned down two United penalty shouts, firstly ignoring claims that the ball had bounced up inside the area and struck John O'Shea's arm, before deciding that there was no infringment when Ben Arfa tumbled under the challenge of McClean just inside the area.
But it was third time lucky as substitute Fraizer Campbell recklessly slid in on Ameobi, bringing the front man crashing down.
Ba stepped up, with the sell-out crowd expecting to see goal number 17 of the season for the front man. However, Mignolet had other ideas, guessing correctly to dive to his left and beat away the spot kick.
It looked as though Newcastle's chance had gone, but Ameobi had other ideas. With the game entering five minutes of stoppage time, Cabaye's cross into the box was flicked on by Williamson, and Ameobi got clear of his marker to finish at the near post.
That sent more than 50,000 Geordies inside the stadium wild, and the hosts pushed for a dramatic winner with Williamson seeing a close-range effort blocked, but they had to settle for a share of the spoils.
To add to Sunderland's late woe, as the teams left the field of play skipper Cattermole was sent off for foul and abusive language directed at Mr Dean, meaning a likely three-game ban for the Black Cats midfielder.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Tim Krul; Danny Simpson, Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini (c), Davide Santon (Hatem Ben Arfa 46); Ryan Taylor (Peter Lovenkrands 89), Yohan Cabaye, Cheick Tiote, Jonas Gutierrez; Papiss Cisse (Shola Ameobi 72), Demba Ba
Subs not used: Rob Elliot, James Perch, Danny Guthrie, Gabriel Obertan
Sunderland (4-4-2): Simon Mignolet; Phil Bardsley, Michael Tunrer, John O'Shea; Kieran Richardson (Wayne Bridge 85); Sebastian Larsson (Jack Colback 73), Lee Cattermole (c), Craig Gardner, James McClean; Stephane Sessegnon, Nicklas Bendtner (Fraizer Campbell 72)
Subs not used: Craig Gordon, Matt Kilgallon, David Vaughan, David Meyler
Referee: Mike Dean (The Wirral)
Attendance: 52,338 (2,650 Sunderland)