Kevin Philipps denied a dominant Fulham all three points at the Stadium of Light this afternoon – as Sunderland fought back to prevent more pressure falling on the shoulders of beleaguered boss Peter Reid.

It looked as if the Black Caps would slip to another demoralising home defeat after Steed Malbranque had steered the Lononders into fifteenth minute lead, but after England forward Phillips had rounded Edwin van der Sar to level, Sunderland might even have snatched all three points.

Reid had opted for experience to try and give his struggling side a boost recalling Niall Quinn to play alongside Phillips in attack and introducing Stefan Schwarz into central midfield. But it was the visitors who looked like an assured top flight outfit with the marvellous Malbranque leading Sunderland a merry dance for much of the first half. John Collins rolled back the years with an accomplished display at the heart of a buoyant Fulham midfield – and, with more assured finishing, the Cottagers could easily have been out of sight by half-time.

Barry Hayles should have fired Fulham in front in the second minute when he outpaced the home defence to reach a through ball from Steve Finnan, but Thomas Sorensen denied him with a smart save. The Danish goalkeeper was helpless thirteen minutes later when Malbranque took matters into his own hands by dribbling past Schwarz, Bernt Haas and Stanislav Varga before burying a brilliant effort into the top corner.

Zat Knight crashed a header against the crossbar when he met Malbranque’s corner ten minutes before the break and Hayles fired wide after wriggling free in the area. Sunderland offered comparatively little in attack in the first period with Grant McCann and Jason McAteer spurning the home side’s only serious opportunities to level when they lost composure having gone through on goal.

But the hosts were perked up by what must have been a tasty half-time team talk from Reid. Quinn’s goalbound volley was bravely blocked at source by an alert Finnan and Phillips offered a warning of what was to come by firing an effort straight at van der Sar after a risky backpass from Alain Goma had fallen his way. Suddenly, Fulham were being pushed back – with only an audacious effort from distance by Knight to speak of – as Sunderland seized control.

McCann saw his shot blocked by Goma after Quinn had nodded on a long throw from Haas before Philipps snatched a shot from the edge of the area and fired wide. But the lively striker drew the hosts level when he raced around a stranded van der Sar after being played in between the visiting defence by a smart Schwarz pass. It felt as though the Black Cats might even muster a precious home win after that – with Philipps shooting fractionally wide just two minutes after scoring and seeing another strike blocked by Sylvain Legwinski.

Steve Marlet spurned a glorious chance to take all three points back to London late on when he cut inside from the left flank and blazed over the bar with only Sorensen to beat.

SUNDERLAND (4-4-2): Sorensen; Haas, Gray, Craddock, Varga; McAteer, McCann (Williams 89), Schwarz, Kilbane; Phillips, Quinn. Subs (not used): Macho, McCartney, Arca, Bellion.

BOOKED: Schwarz, McAteer, Williams.

GOAL: Phillips (66).

FULHAM (4-4-2): van der Sar; Finnan, Brevett, Melville, Goma; Knight, Collins, Legwinski, Malbranque; Hayles (Boa Morte 77; Stolcers 90), Marlet. Subs (not used): Taylor, Harley, Goldbaek.

BOOKED: Brevett, Goma.

GOAL: Malbranque (15).

REFEREE: Peter Jones (Loughborough).