Cottagers forced to settle for their 10th draw of the season
Fulham manager Mark Hughes made just one change from the team that lost 2-1 to Arsenal last weekend. John Paintsil replaced Matthew Briggs to take his place in a Fulham defence that had conceded seven goals in the last three games.
Meanwhile, Sunderland manager Steve Bruce made two changes to his side that beat West Ham United 1-0 last weekend. Midfielder David Meyler replaced Asamoah Gyan, following his recovery from a seven-month lay-off with a knee ligament injury, to earn his first appearance of the season. Scottish shot-stopper Craig Gordan failed to shrug off a hamstring injury so Simon Mignolet was drafted in for the Black Cats.
The first chance of the game fell to Clint Dempsey who connected with a clearance from the Sunderland defence. Fulham midfielder Danny Murphy played a ball over the top for Diomansy Kamara to run onto but an interception from Sunderland led to a half-hearted clearance, which landed on the chest of Dempsey who fired in a fierce 30-yard volley for Minolet to save.
Moments later Anton Ferdinand played a ball into the crowd to prevent any further danger but appeared to pull his hamstring in doing so and as a result was brought off in after only 10 minutes for Ahmed Al- Muhammadi.
The first chance for Sunderland came after 20 minutes when a cross played in found the head of Darren Bent, who managed to get the better of Fulham defender Aaron Hughes and place his header just wide of the left-hand post.
Midway through the first half referee Neil Swarbrick had to make his biggest decision of the game so far when Bardsley enetered a challenge with Simon Davies showing his studs. He managed to win the ball but it didn't look the cleanest of challenges and a free-kick was given for dangerous play with Bardsley fortunate to escape a caution.
A corner from Sunderland led to raised pressure on the Fulham defence as they struggled to clear their lines but the Black Cats could not find the extra spark that was needed to penetrate the hosts and the attack came to nothing.
However, the visitors continued to attack with Danny Welbeck receiving the ball inside the penalty area and managing to turn but only to find an anticipating Brede Hangeland who did enough to distract the striker and ensure his shot was fired over the crossbar.
Fulham midfielder Zoltan Gera then made a darting run forwards and managed to turn Nudeum Onuoha before playing in Kamara, who decided to take the ball centrally and try and to dink it over Mignolet, but the goalkeeper caught the ball in a routine save.
The players left the pitch at the break to boos from the fans at Craven Cottage, who were demonstrating their frustration at a half which didn't really see much action, with both teams struggling to string a collection of passes together.
Safe hands| Schwarzer comes to claim in a game when defences came out on top
The second half started with Hughes bringing on Andy Johnson to replace Kamara, which sparked the Fulham faithful into life.
Witihin two minutes the former England international was chasing down a lost cause and sliding in for a ball on the byline, creating a chance out of nothing to lift the home side's spirits.
Dempsey then had a chance from the edge of the penalty area but although his curling effort, was heading for the top right-hand corner, it lacked pace and was easily saved by the young Belgian 'keeper.
With pressure mounting from Fulham, Steve Bruce decided to re-organise his team. Off came Meyler, and on came £13 million record signing Gyan with the formation changing to a 4-3-3.
Yet the pressure from Fulham continued and Carlos Salcido played a cross from the left hand side of the pitch, which Dempsey failed to connect with despite a sliding effort.
Just seconds later another cross found its way into the Fulham area and Mignolet failed to deal with it, enabling Etuhu the chance to place a headed shot, only to find Bardsley on the line to clear the danger.
A rare breakaway from Sunderland saw Kieran Richardson waste one of Sunderland's best chances. A run down the right wing saw Henderson feed Richardson, only for the winger to see his shot sail over Mark Schwarzer's bar.
A scramble on the Sunderland goal line then saw Mignolet pull off a magnificent save to prevent the home team from taking the lead. Johnson saw his shot fired straight at Mignolet who blocked to deny a certain goal.
The clearance led to an incisive break from Sunderland who had a three-on-one attack. Had Bent managed to find his pass, the score would have surely been 1-0 in favour of the visitors as Gyan was in acres of space but the pass was overhit and found its way to the touchline for a throw-in.
With 20 minutes of the game left Hughes made a double substitution bringing Eddie Johnson and Chris Baird on to replace Etuhu and Salcido but it was another substitute, Boudewijn Zenden who was to go closest in the closing stages with his 25-yarder flying narrowly wide of the Fulham post.
The result leaves Fulham just one place above the relegation zone, level on points with Wigan Athletic, after their 10th draw in 17 Premier League games this season.
Commentaries, Stats, Player Ratings and much more,
Visit Goal.com Live Scores!