The Irish international denied Drenthe with a save of such quality that it suggested the watching Craig Gordon could remain on the sidelines once he regains full fitness.
After a promising opening, the centre-half limped out of the action and headed straight for the treatment table.
The Irishman looked more comfortable at centre-half than at right-back but that is not really saying much because he looked leaden and ponderous.
There can be no doubting his tenacity but that fails to make up for the former Manchester United defender's lack of quality, especially when he was moving forward before was substituted at half-time.
You can see why Sir Alex Ferguson was happy to let him leave Manchester United because he struggled to cope with former Old Trafford colleague Louis Saha or Tim Cahill.
He proved his versatility by moving from left wing to left-back but looked ordinary in both departments.
The former Blackpool midfielder brought a neatness and tidiness to Sunderland's play that made you wonder why on earth he hardly got a look-in under Steve Bruce until he faded in the second half.
He provided Sunderland's main attacking spark as he gave penetration and guile to the Black Cats' offensive efforts and expertly teed up Colback's goal.
Anyone thinking this free-kick specialist is a one-trick pony would have been given extra ammunition as the Sweden international hardly troubled Leighton Baines.
He has managed to keep the captain's armband following Martin O'Neill's arrival and vindicated his manager's faith with a disciplined display.
The on-loan Arsenal striker showed why Arsene Wenger deemed him surplus to requirements by squandering two excellent openings in an overall cumbersome performance.
From the way the American played it was bound to take a lucky deflection to beat him. And so it proved, with Colback's goal-bound shot that he had covered until the deflection off Distin.
The Dutch international shielded the Everton back four all afternoon but was hardly put under pressure by the Black Cats.
The former Newcastle defender was at his commanding best as he dominated Nicklas Bendtner with a performance that was only marred by the unfortunate way he deflected Colback's goal past the helpless Howard.
The England centre-half hardly put a wrong as he offered sterling support to Distin with a vigilant performance as he routinely frustrated unimaginative hosts who played into his hands all too often.
There were certainly no thrills about the right-back's defensive performance but he was as reliable as ever down the flank.
The way he suppressed Seb Larsson and then stuck away his penalty showed that he will be an able under-study for Ashley Cole when England contest Euro 2012.
The veteran continues to lead by example with his uncomplicated, uncompromising brand of midfield play.
He inadvertently won the penalty that yielded the Everton equaliser as he lost his footing but he kept his team on the front foot with scampering runs forward.
The former Real Madrid man worked his socks off but flattered to deceive before being taken off midway through the second half-
If only his finishing was as good as his movement and mobility. The Frenchman should have been celebrating a goal after missing a great opportunity.
The Australian hasn't scored for the Toffees since last December and an early miss showed he lacks the killer touch that made him invaluable to club and country.
- 24 T. Carson
- 12 M. Kilgallon
The substitute's first ever goal for Sunderland ensured that this would be a Christmas he will never forget although it probably wasn't what he dreamed of as a boy because he was a childhood Newcastle fan.
They say that the Midlands-born midfielder is homesick and it showed because he couldn't get into this contest after replacing Bardsley at the break.
- 27 Ahmed El Mohamady
They are expecting big things from the academy product and a bright cameo showed why.
- 17 Dong-Won Ji
- 1 J. Mucha
- 7 D. Bilyaletdinov
- 20 R. Barkley
- 11 D. Stracqualursi
Came for a late cameo but did not have enough time to do anything but harass defenders.
Sent on in the closing stages to give Cahill a break but hardly got a touch.
Did his bit after being sent off for Drenthe with a tidy display.