Manchester City's hopes of winning the Premier League took a big hit with a 2-2 draw at home to last-place Sunderland on Wednesday, with the title chasers needing an 88th-minute goal from Samir Nasri to earn a point.
Third-placed City trimmed the deficit to Liverpool to six points, with one game still in hand, but will see this as two points dropped after losing a second-minute lead given to the team by Fernandinho.
Connor Wickham scored in the 73rd and 83rd minutes to put Sunderland on course for a major upset that would have cut its gap to safety to four points.
But Nasri swept home a shot that trickled through the fingers of goalkeeper Victor Mannone to secure a draw that will be celebrated by Liverpool and second-placed Chelsea.
Looking to bounce back from a 3-2 home loss to Liverpool on Sunday, City was lucky to come away with a point from a sloppy display that will give encouragement to its title rivals.
Without the power and goal threat of the injured Yaya Toure and the guile of David Silva, who was rested as a precaution because of a foot problem, this was one of the rare occasions when City lacked creativity and inspiration going forward.
Indeed, Fernandinho's goal was one of the few times in the first half that Sunderland's defense was unpicked, Sergio Aguero delivering a short pass that was dummied by Alvaro Negredo to allow the Brazil midfielder to collect and shoot inside Mannone's near post.
Sunderland, on a run of five straight defeats and without a win since losing to City in the League Cup final on March 2, battled harder and created the better chances for the remainder of the half, with John O'Shea heading two great chances off target and Fabio Borini thrashing a low effort wide.
City labored in the second half, too, with Aguero's second appearance since his return from a hamstring injury lasting just 55 minutes before he was replaced by Stevan Jovetic. His lack of sharpness will be a concern to City manager Manuel Pellegrini with a month left in the season.
Sunderland sensed an opportunity of an upset and moments after Jack Colback had a shot saved by City goalkeeper Joe Hart, Emanuele Giaccherini crossed for Wickham to apply a volleyed finish for his first goal in the Premier League since 2011.
Wickham then ran onto another pass from Giaccherini on a quick counterattack and shot past Hart at his near post.
Nasri's goal, from Jovetic's cut back, kept Sunderland six points from safety but may not be enough for City in the race to catch Liverpool.
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