The Black Cats had struggled to break down their rivals' defence despite the sending-off of Cheikh Tiote in the first half following Yohan Cabaye's early opening strike
Yohan Cabaye had given the visitors the lead in the third minute before Tiote was dismissed for a challenge on Steven Fletcher midway through the first half.
Sunderland struggled to carve out goalscoring opportunities but took advantage of one of several set-piece situations to save a point after John O'Shea's header deflected off Ba with five minutes remaining.
While Martin O'Neill named an unchanged team despite his side's 3-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester City a fortnight previously, Alan Pardew was able to welcome Danny Simpson and Fabricio Coloccini back into the fold in defence.
|TOP OF THE MATCH
| PLAYER RATING | FABRICIO COLOCCINI
|Classy display from the Newcastle captain upon his return to the side. Looked solid alongside Williamson and provided a cool head in possession throughout.|
Sunderland were not without promising breaks of their own in the opening stages but found themselves frustrated by Newcastle's decisive defending. There was a restlessness emerging in the stands but, just as the early flames of the derby match seemed to have been fanned, they were reignited by a pair of controversial refereeing decisions.
Tiote saw red for a careless - if not particularly vicious - challenge which drew a somewhat dramatic reaction from Steven Fletcher. The referee, Martin Atkinson, had initially blown for a foul on the Ivorian and, when the Magpies found themselves in the odd position of taking the subsequent free kick, Sebastian Larsson was perhaps fortunate not to be penalised for handball in the penalty area.
O'Neill's team were not nearly as fluent as they would have hoped but improved thereafter with the numerical advantage. Adam Johnson curled a difficult shot narrowly wide before Craig Gardner's free kick fizzed past the post and Pardew had seen enough to decide that the introduction of James Perch to replace Tiote in midfield was necessary.
Any half-time pep talk that O'Neill might have delivered failed to immediately pay off after the break as Sunderland, despite controlling the ball, badly lacked ideas in the opposition half. The home supporters remained admirable in volume but increasingly demanded change and the Northern Irishman finally relented by introducing Louis Saha for the ineffective Stephane Sessegnon.
That did not help matters much in open play but Newcastle's penchant for conceding cheap free kicks proved their downfall. Coloccini was withdrawn having only recently returned from injury and it took Sunderland less than five minutes to take advantage of the absence of the Argentine, who had turned in a colossal performance.
Larsson sent the dead ball into the box from just inside the Newcastle half and O'Shea's header deflected off Ba to leave Tim Krul stranded and end the Magpies' stubborn resistance.