Published: 16:45, 07 March 2020
| Updated: 19:12, 07 March 2020
Striker Mikael Mandron scored a last-gasp equaliser for the Gills at the home of his former team.
Kyle Lafferty looked to have won it for Sunderland but Mandron smashed home a 96th minute equaliser at the Stadium of Light, his second of the game.
Gillingham were hoping to reignite their play-off charge following last weekend’s unexpected defeat to Wimbledon but were up against a promotion-chasing Sunderland in their own back yard.
Cheered on by close to 30,000 fans, The Black Cats were out for revenge having been been dumped out of the FA Cup earlier in the season in a first round replay by Steve Evans’ men, who had followed that up by winning the league encounter at Priestfield.
Evans described this team as a “different beast” to what they had faced before, with many of their big players back from injury. January signing Lafferty was making his first start for the club and made a telling impact.
Gills keeper Jack Bonham had to make a couple of important blocks to keep the hosts out during the opening half.
He saved a close-range effort from Lynden Gooch after the home forward got a shot away in the box following Denver Hume’s knock-down.
Chris Maguire also had a shot turned over the bar by Bonham and former Gills defender Tom Flanagan twice went close from corner kicks.
Gillingham reached the break without conceding, having defended well, but hadn’t managed to test home keeper Jon McLaughlin in the opening 45 minutes.
Sunderland were awarded a couple of soft free-kicks early in the second half, with Bonham needing a couple of attempts to deal with Maquire’s first set-piece, after Barry Fuller had been harsly penalised, before watching as the same player put the second effort over the bar.
Gillingham’s first shot on target came on 55 minutes. Mikael Mandron, back in the XI in place of John Akinde, did well out wide and fed the ball into Roberts, whose low shot was saved by McLaughlin.
Kyle Lafferty wasted a great chance for the hosts soon after, having been picked out in space by Hume. His shot went wide of the post.
Maguire had a chance too at the near post, from O’Nien’s ball in the box, but Bonham did enough to put him off and the ball was eventually cleared.
Hanlan - who hit the winner against Sunderland in the FA Cup - was put in on goal just moments before Lafferty headed the hosts infront.
The Gills striker was unable to get a decent shot away and Sunderland raced down the other end to score, with Hume supplying the cross and Lafferty heading home from close range with 64 minutes gone.
Gillingham’s equaliser came from Connor Ogilvie’s throw. There was carnage in the box as sub Akinde and Mandron both attempted to get a shot away and it was the former Sunderland man who found the far corner.
He almost got a second goal moments later, beating the defender but not keeper McLaughlin, who was all of a sudden a busy man. The Sunderland shot-stopper also did well to deny Jack Tucker from the corner kick.
Gillingham’s joy didn’t last long. Six minutes after Mandron’s equaliser the hosts were back infront as Lafferty got on the end of George Dobson’s through ball and poked home past Bonham.
Sunderland were running down the clock but in the final minute of injury time Ogilvie’s throw was worked out to Mandron and from 20 yards he thumped in the leveller.
Sunderland: J McLaughlin, Willis, Ozturk (Semenyo 81mins), Power, Maguire (Scowen 85mins), Lafferty, Gooch, Flanagan, O’Nien, Dobson, Hume (C McLaughlin 89mins). Subs not used: Burge, Watmore, Lynch, Grigg.
Gillingham: Bonham, Fuller, Ogilvie, Ehmer, Tucker, Jones, O’Keefe (Akinde 72mins), Graham (Lee 58mins), Roberts (O’Connor 61mins), Hanlan, Mandron. Subs not used: Walsh, Willock, Charles-Cook, Pringle.
Attendance: 29,822 (473 away)