Despite having a numerical advantage for most of the match, the Black Cats fail to overcome the visitors, failing to allay fears of being dragged back into the relegation mire
The visitors took the lead through Wes Hoolahan's header from a corner in the 26th minute but had goalkeeper Mark Bunn controversially sent off only three minutes later for a deliberate handball.
Shortly afterward, Sebastian Bassong was penalised for handball and Craig Gardner brilliantly converted the penalty for the hosts despite the Canaries' protests.
Martin O'Neill made three changes his side after defeat to QPR. Danny Rose returned to the starting line-up following his recent hamstring injury and Carlos Cuellar and David Vaughan were recalled, though James McClean only made the bench following an illness. Connor Wickham returned to the squad after his loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday.
Chris Hughton dropped Grant Holt to the bench after scoring only one goal in nine games. In his place, Hoolahan started behind Kei Kamara while Elliott Bennett replaced Anthony Pilkington, out with a hamstring injury.
Norwich started brightest in a game reflected both teams' league positions, with defences on top and set-pieces the main threats.
The first real chance of the game went to the home side, Danny Graham nodding down for Steven Fletcher, but Bunn rushed out to smother Sunderland's top scorer.
After 26 minutes and a succession of early corners, Norwich took the lead through Hoolahan. Robert Snodgrass's inswinging corner found an unmarked Kamara six yards out and his header was flicked in on the line by the Irishman for his fourth league goal of the season.
But only three minutes later, the game swung. With Stephane Sessegnon lively in midfield for the Black Cats, a poor Michael Turner header back to Bunn was pressured by Graham, forcing the goalkeeper into a handball outside of his area.
Referee Chris Foy adjudged this to be denying a goalscoring opportunity and sent Bunn off. The resulting free kick was hit straight at the Norwich wall but the decision turned the game in Sunderland's favour.
Making his Premier League debut from the bench, Lee Camp's hopes of a clean sheet were swiftly dashed when Bassong was harshly adjudged to have handled inside the area in the 38th minute, the ball striking his arm after deflecting off his chest. Gardner stepped up to convert.
The hosts finished the half stronger, Sebastian Larsson forcing Camp into a good save before Graham dragged the follow-up wide.
The second half saw Sunderland in the ascendancy, with Norwich dropping deep but defending well. Former Sunderland man Turner and Bassong dealt with a succession of crosses and Gardner forced Camp to tip over from his close-range shot.
The big decision of the second half came after Rose seemed to handle inside the Sunderland box but, in a position similar to Bassong in the first half, only a free kick was given.
The visitors posed a threat on the break. Substitute Holt should have scored after a long ball from Snodgrass. Titus Bramble – on for the injured Cuellar – lost his man but the Norwich forward miscontrolled and was denied by Simon Mignolet.
O'Neill brought on McClean and Wickham in search of a winner and Sessegnon should have claimed all three points for the Black Cats with three minutes to go but the Benin international dragged his shot wide from eight yards out, as the Norwich defence held firm to see out the draw.