Keira Ramshaw inspired a brilliant comeback as she came off the bench to earn Sunderland Ladies a hard-fought point at Crystal Palace.
The Black Cats legend equalised Millie Farrow’s second-half opener with a smart turn and finish as the visitors maintained their unbeaten start to the season.
Manager Mel Reay named the same starting XI that blew away Blackburn Rovers at the Stadium of Light last week, with Ramshaw coming into the squad after recovering from a knee injury. Youngster Emily Hutchinson missed out after picking up a knock in training.
In an action-packed opening 10 minutes there were chances for both sides with Louise Griffiths testing Emily Orman and Siobhan Wilson seeing her dangerous cross palmed away at the other end.
Farrow then collected Bianca Baptiste’s pass, but her scuffed shot was easily gathered by Black Cats’ keeper Claudia Moan before Grace McCatty denied a certain goal with a block on the line.
Next Wilson curled her freekick just wide after Sunderland’s Emma Kelly tried her luck with 25-yard strike which was well saved by Orman. Palace upped the tempo heading into half time, Farrow clattering the far post from another Wilson cross and both Coral-Jade Haines and Baptiste denied by last-ditch defending.
The visitors seemed to have weathered the storm and Neve Herron played in Jessica Brown after a good spell of possession who put her shot narrowly wide. The winger had another sight of goal moments later following an incisive Sunderland breakaway, but her effort dropped agonisingly over the bar.
The early stages of the second half followed the pattern of the first, Sunderland having their first shot saved by Orman, and Baptiste blasting over after collecting the ball deep and sprinting almost the full length of the pitch. Gracie Pearse’s pinpoint ball over the top but Charlotte Potts bravely threw herself in front of Farrow’s strike.
But just after the hour the forward got her goal, diverting a cross-shot in to the net from close range, and almost doubled her tally within seconds forcing a good save from Moan. The visitors responded through substitute Holly Manders who flicked Herron’s cross inches wide.
Reay’s young team needed a quick response and Ramshaw, summoned from the bench, provided it. The Palace defence were coming under increasing pressure and after failing to clear, the ball found its way to the skipper who turned sharply and finished inside the area.
Wilson almost claimed victory late on as the hosts struck the woodwork for the second time and Griffiths prevented the follow-up, but Sunderland held on to the point and their place at the top of the Women’s Championship.
Sunderland: Moan; Beer, McCatty, Potts, Griffiths; Brown, Kelly ©, Herron, Joice; Farrugia, Scarr.
Subs: Cowling, Mullen, Blakey, Manders, Ramshaw, McInnes.