Gills produce a determined display and get their rewards as Jordan Graham's late strike earns Kent club a share of the spoils.
Jordan Graham struck in the 90th minute as Gills drew 2-2 with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Saturday afternoon.
He latched on to an excellent John Akinde flick before thundering an effort beyond Lee Burge and into the top right hand corner.
Aiden McGeady had initially put Sunderland in front in the sixth minute. McGeady’s curled shot from distance took a deflection on its way towards goal, and it gave Jack Bonham no chance as it dipped into the bottom corner.
In the 28th minute, Alex MacDonald scored his first goal in a Gillingham shirt. Sunderland could only head the ball as far as the midfielder, and he did brilliantly to control his volley as he drilled it into the bottom corner.
Minutes before half-time, Robbie Cundy and McGeady collided inside the penalty area, and the referee awarded the hosts a controversial penalty.
Grant Leadbitter stepped up and saw his initial effort saved by Bonham. Unfortunately, the ball sat up perfectly for Leadbitter to head the rebound into an empty net.
As the game was heading into stoppage time, Vadaine Oliver flicked the ball onto John Akinde. Akinde then flicked it on to Graham who used some magnificent footwork to take it round Lee Burge before blasting his shot into the roof of an empty net.
Steve Evans was forced into one change for the fixture as Alex MacDonald replaced Tom O’Connor who missed out with a groin injury.
Sacha Bastien was amongst the substitutes after signing for the club on Friday afternoon.
McGeady opened the scoring for Sunderland in the sixth minute. McGeady picked the ball up from distance and set himself to shoot. His curling shot at goal took a big deflection, looping into the bottom corner and gave Jack Bonham no chance.
Gills responded well to the goal, putting pressure on the Sunderland defence, but were unable to test Lee Burge in the Sunderland goal.
In the 17th minute, Olly Lee had Gillingham’s first chance. Jordan Graham’s cross was headed down by Vadaine Oliver, and Lee did well to get it under control. He swivelled round to create space but drilled his effort wide of the post.
Connor Ogilvie had a big chance just ten minutes later. The Gills defender did well to beat Jack Diamond, and his right-footed shot was blocked by Jordan Willis.
Shortly afterwards, the Gillingham pressure was rewarded as Alex MacDonald scored a beauty.
Sunderland could only head a ball into the box as far as MacDonald, and he volleyed it into the bottom corner giving Burge no chance.
MacDonald came close moments later to get his second as his left-footed volley from ten yards crashed off the underside of the crossbar.
At the other end, Bonham did brilliantly to keep Gills level in the 39th minute.
Gills were unable to clear their lines, and it allowed Willis to have space on the edge of the penalty area. He got the ball under control before firing a shot at goal, and it took a solid palm from the Gills number one to push it wide of the post. Fortunately, the corner came to nothing.
In the 42nd minute, McGeady won a penalty. He and Robbie Cundy collided inside the penalty area, and the Sunderland winger went down under the contact.
Grant Leadbitter stepped up and saw his initial spot-kick brilliantly saved by Bonham. However, as he was trying to claw the ball away from goal, Leadbitter came steaming in to head the rebound into an empty net.
HALF-TIME: Sunderland 2-1 Gillingham
Immediately after half-time, Charlie Wyke came close to adding a third.
A cross was lifted towards the centre of the six-yard box, and Wyke jumped the highest. Fortunately, his header hit the top of the crossbar and went out of play.
Oliver had Gillingham’s first chance of the second half. A Ryan Jackson throw was flicked on by Ogilvie. However, the Gills striker’s header was a tame one and was a comfortable save for Burge.
Oliver went close again a few minutes later. Cundy flicked a Jack Tucker free-kick into the path of the striker, but the pressure from Burge forced Oliver to pull his shot just wide of the goal.
In the 62nd minute, manager Steve Evans made a change with John Akinde replacing MacDonald.
McGeady almost got his second, and Sunderland’s third, but Bonham did well to get two strong hands behind the ball and claim it.
Lee forced Burge into a save, but his strong half volley from 25 yards was right into the stomach of the goalkeeper.
Oliver, who was heavily involved in the second half, came close to equalising in acrobatic fashion.
He looked like he was unable to reach the ball whilst being tightly marked. Instead, he decided to go for it with an overhead kick and hit the post. A follow up delivery glanced the woodwork too before being cleared.
In the 82nd minute, it took a massive Leadbitter clearance to prevent an oncoming Akinde from smashing a volley into the back of the net.
In the 90th minute, Graham finally got the goal that Gills efforts warranted.
Akinde did well to flick it into the path of the Graham, and he possessed some great footwork to take it round Burge. With the entire goal at his mercy, Graham smashed it into the roof of an empty net to give Gillingham a deserved equaliser.
FULL-TIME: Sunderland 2-2 Gillingham
Sunderland: Burge, Flanagan, Willis, McFadzean, McGeady, Leadbitter (Sanderson 88’), Power, Diamond (Gooch 54’), Scowen, Wyke (O’Nien 87’), O’Brien
Unused subs: Matthews, Embleton, Winchester, Vokins
Gillingham: Bonham, Jackson, Tucker, Cundy, Ogilvie, Dempsey (O’Keefe 52’), Slattery (Johnson 88’), MacDonald (Akinde 62’), Lee, Graham, Oliver
Unused subs: Bastien, McKenzie, Willock
Referee: Mr O Langford