Grabban provides relief for black cats
Lewis Grabban struck from the penalty to save Sunderland from opening-night embarrassment as they began their Championship campaign with a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Derby at the Stadium of Light.
The newly-relegated Black Cats were served a stark reminder of the task that awaits them this season as it took Gary Rowett's Rams just 12 minutes to grab the lead when Bradley Johnson lashed home a loose ball in the box.
Grabban equalised just before the break after Jacob Butterfield was judged to have handled, and while Grabban also hit the bar for Sunderland, his side were fortunate when visiting striker Chris Martin wasted a glorious chance to win it late on.
Sunderland were denied a second penalty after George Honeyman tangled with Curtis Davies in the box, while Rams substitute David Nugent came close to a winner in injury time.
For all the well-meaning bustle of two clubs expecting to find themselves in the promotion frame, the start of another competitive campaign was put in perspective by a pre-match minute's applause for Sunderland fan Bradley Lowery, who lost his battle with neuroblastoma last month.
Elsewhere, Barrie McKay had the perfect debut as he gave Nottingham Forest a winning start against Millwall.
But the Londoners will rightly feel hard done by after Steve Morison had a controversial equaliser ruled out when they had missed plenty of chances.