Stoke opened the scoring inside 10 minutes after Jonathan Walters fired home the second attempt from a corner, but Sunderland pegged the visitors back in the second half.
Dean Whitehead flicked a Black Cats corner toward the back post and John O'Shea was on hand to steer the ball home.
The result stopped Stoke from clawing their way to genuine safety at 43 points, while also hindering Sunderland's attempts to reach the sought-after 40-point mark.
It also represented yet another 90 minutes after which no conclusions can yet be drawn on the English Premier League dogfight.
Sunderland clamber above Norwich City and Newcastle United—all on 38 points—thanks to a better goal difference and will be looking to leapfrog Southampton in the table by beating them this coming Sunday.
Had the Black Cats failed to peg the Potters back and give themselves a fighting chance, many would suggest a loss to the Saints at home would seal their fate.
Norwich slip to 16th place, sit on a dreaded minus-22 goal difference and face two incredibly daunting fixtures: West Bromwich Albion at home and Manchester City away.
If the Canaries fail to beat WBA, the sides who have already attained 40 points will feel safe. Even a draw would only see them to 39 and an away win at the Etihad Stadium is incredibly unlikely.
Aston Villa will still be feeling pretty good about their situation. Their goal difference isn't favourable, but they have the ability to win the games they really have to and it would take a miracle set of results to see them drop.
Norwich, Newcastle and Southampton fans will be feeling the heat, but it stands to reason that any worrying done is pointless until Wigan Athletic catch up on games.
Their clash with nothing-to-play-for Swansea on Tuesday will truly shape this relegation battle and a win for the Latics would see Newcastle drop into the relegation zone with just two games to play.
That brings a whole new meaning to the word "tension" as the Magpies step out onto the pitch at Loftus Road. If they can't win, they're hoping for a miracle on the last day against Champions League-chasing Arsenal.
Who's your favourite for the drop?