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There was an immediate response from the Saints, but Jay Rodriguez's strike was ruled out for offside.
More good work by Ward-Prowse saw the ball fall for Rodriguez but his shot deflected wide for a corner.
Sunderland claimed for a penalty but Jozy Altidore's fall failed to convince the referee.
The home side then had their own penalty appeal when Jose Fonte went down in the box trying to reach Ward-Prowse's free kick.
Fonte was again in the action soon after, when his shot from 35 yards drifted wide.