Wolves 1 Sunderland 1
It was the ultimate game of two handshakes. And, if Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Mick McCarthy ended the evening relieved that Roy Keane's talking to him again after all these years, he certainly wasn't very pleased at the way his team surrendered two home points.
Leading by a stunning first-half strike from Jemal Johnson, McCarthy, along with Wolves' biggest crowd in 11 months, must have thought his side were on their way to a deserved victory when they continued to carve out chances.
But substitute Leon Clarke contrived the miss of the season and Sunderland equalised through Stephen Elliott's deflected close-range shot. And, in the end, in a game they should have won, Wolves could actually have lost had keeper Matt Murray not completed the last of a quartet of fine saves.
After all the hype, the actual first handshake between Keane and McCarthy in four-and-a-half years was a long drawn-out affair.
McCarthy was first to his dug-out. And, while waiting for Keane to arrive to impart bonhomie, the Wolves boss amused himself by greeting Sunderland's attractive press officer with a smile and a kiss.
Then, finally, Keane arrived, slinking discreetly out of the tunnel and making his way to his bench without so much as a glance in the direction of the Wolves bench. But that was not good enough for McCarthy, who strode over, followed by the ridiculous sight of a posse of 20 hungry photographers snapping at his heels and, at last, the deed was done and we could all get on with the game.
Thankfully, it wasn't a bad one either.
England hopeful Matt Murray rescued his side with a superb save when Jamie Clapham's clearance cannoned off Karl Henry into the path of Grant Leadbitter — and the Wolves keeper made astonishing ground to block bravely at his feet.
Sunderland, at this stage, were by some distance the better side but Johnson responded with two shots both on the counter attack. The second of them bought Wolves a toehold in the contest.
And they went even closer to going ahead when, after he had been clumsily brought down himself by the dreadful Dwight Yorke, Gobern got up to take the free kick and captain Jody Craddock's well-struck header forced keeper Darren Ward to dive to his right to save.
There was another close shave for Sunderland when Daniel Jones shot just over the angle after Jay Bothroyd's clever ball served up a chance for Seyi Olofinjana. And Henry was only just over with a stinging 30-yarder.
Bothroyd's near-post header from Johnson's cross flashed just wide and it looked like Wolves' luck might be out when, from Gobern's header, Craddock 's venomous volley was somehow scrambled off the line by Dean Whitehead, looking suspiciously as if the ball might actually have at one stage spun over the whitewash. But it took a stunning piece of football to break the deadlock.
From Jamie Clapham's throw-in, Olofinjana and Bothroyd completed a brief sequence of head tennis to give Johnson possession and, at this point, there seemed no immediate danger. But Johnson put on a turn of speed to dart away from the close attentions of Danny Collins before unleashing an unstoppable right foot screamer from 25 yards out that flew just inside Ward's top right corner.
Of all the spectacular goals Johnson and Bothroyd have contrived between them this season, this was the best yet. And it looked as if it might open the floodgates given the confident way Wolves attacked after the break.
Johnson could have done better when he tried to turn in a Gobern mis-hit, Ward parried from Bothroyd and when Gobern made a great run from the halfway line, he could only poke wide.
Then came that unbelievable miss when, from Mark Little's cross, the unmarked Clarke was denied by the alert Ward four yards out. And, reprieved by that let-off, and with key man Graham Kavanagh now having entered the fray, Sunderland's confidence grew.
Murray had already had to save in another one-on-one against visiting sub Tobias Hysen when he turned aside Elliott's near-post shot. But, from Leadbitter's right-wing corner, they were still at panic stations in the Wolves box, the first header was missed, Elliott swung his right peg and a deflection helped squeeze it past the seemingly unbeatable Murray.
Murray still had one more save to make, low down to his right to keep out Leadbitter's free-kick in the dying seconds.
But this was a game Wolves know they should have won. And that may just have been reflected in the warmth of a relieved Keane's greeting to his old international manager at the end — another handshake, this one a lot more friendly, a few kind words and a spot of spontaneous back-slapping.
So that's Keane and McCarthy back on speaking terms. Now for the football world's next quest . . . to get Wenger and Mourinho talking again!
WOLVES(4-4-2): Murray; Little, Breen, Craddock, Clapham; Gobern, Olofinjana, Henry, Jones, Bothroyd (Clarke 63), Johnson (C Davies 83). Subs: Ikeme (gk), N Collins, Potter.
SUNDERLAND (4-4-2): Ward; Whitehead, D Collins, Varga, Nyatanga; Miller (Kavanagh 64), Leadbitter, Yorke (Hysen ht), Wallace (Nosworthy 76); Elliott, Connolly. Subs: Carson, Caldwell
Referee: Mike Pike (Barrow)
Bookings: Wolves - Jones (foul); Sunderland - Yorke (persistent fouling), Varga (foul)