The Lilywhites made it seven games unbeaten, but had to settle for a point at Deepdale, despite two fantastic goals from Josh Harrop and Jordan Hugill.
The visitors had taken a first half lead through George Honeyman, but a stunning free kick from Harrop and then a Hugill left-footed volley just two minutes later put Alex Neil’s side in front, only for Aiden McGeady to level matters.
The Lilywhites had to make a change from the side that won at Hull City in midweek, after John Welsh failed a late fitness test, with Harrop coming into the side in the midfield, with McGeady, Tyias Browning and Billy Jones all starting for the Black Cats, against their former club.
The opening half hour was a fairly cagey affair, the best chance coming when Tom Barkhuizen broke down the right, beat Adam Matthews for pace, before pulling a cross back for Alan Browne, whose shot was on target, but blocked by Browning. There was a suggestion of handball, with some loud shouts from the terraces, but nothing was given by referee Chris Kavanagh.
The Wearsiders took the lead on 28 minutes when a free kick from Browning, was held up well in the box by James Vaughan, who head the ball neatly into the path of Honeyman, unmarked, 12 yards out, who fired hard and low into the bottom left hand corner for Simon Grayson’s side.
The half-time team talk from the manager sparked his side into life in the second half though, as they came out of the blocks at pace and were level within ten minutes of the restart.
Jordan Hugill had been switched to the left to isolate the full back and it worked, as he won a free kick on the left hand corner of the penalty area. Harrop lined it up and curled a powerful effort that was arrowed into the top right hand corner of Jason Steele’s goal, via a slight deflection from Vaughan’s head – although it was already goalbound and was definitely the No.10’s goal.
And before 120 seconds had passed the home side were in front. Ben Davies ball into the box was half cleared, under pressure from Browne, by Browning, but the ball only went up in the air, and as it came down Hugill sweetly volleyed it with his left foot into the top left hand corner via the underside of the bar, so send the near 15,000 home fans into raptures.
But the third goal in the space of five minutes levelled matters once again as McGeady came out on top of a 50/50 on the edge of the penalty area, before curling a left footed effort into the bottom left hand corner.
It could have been four goals in six minutes moments later as North End were inches away from going back ahead, when Browne collected Sean Maguire’s ball on the right hand corner of the box and curled a superb effort that came off the left hand post and behind.
Both sides made changes, with Alex Neil putting on three attackers to try and win the game. Davies was needed at the back, as the visitors reverted to counter attacks, denying Lee Cattermole, after substitute Duncan Watmore had got free in the box and pulled it back for the experienced midfielder, until the young PNE centre half got a leg in to force behind.
A late injury time corner for North End raised the hope of another late winner once again, but John O’Shea got in just ahead of his opposing skipper Paul Huntington as the game ended all-square.
PNE line-up: Maxwell, Fisher, Earl, Browne, Huntington (c), Davies, Barkhuizen (Horgan, 69), Johnson, Hugill (Mavididi, 79), Harrop, Maguire (Robinson, 88). Subs not used: Hudson, Vermijl, Woods, Spurr.
Sunderland line-up: Steele, Jones (Oviedo, 70), Cattermole, Vaughan, O’Shea (c), Ndong, Browning, McGeady, Matthews, Honeyman (Williams, 84), Gooch (Watmore, 64). Subs not used: Ruiter, McManaman, Kone, Gibson.
Attendance: 17,621 (2,929 Sunderland fans)
Referee: Mr C Kavanagh