The hosts took the lead through a controversially awarded penalty despatched by Jordi Gomez after 22 minutes, but Stewart Downing earned Sam Allardyce’s in-form side a point with a deflected left-footed strike seven minutes later.
Jozy Altidore missed a superb chance for Sunderland just before half-time and Andy Carroll fired centimetres wide in the 90th minute for West Ham as both teams spurned fine opportunities to claim victory.
The result sees West Ham remain fourth in the table, level on points with third-placed Manchester United, while Sunderland stay 15th after their fifth draw in six games.
West Ham made the more potent start and could have been out of sight inside 10 minutes. Carl Jenkinson and Diafra Sakho both had point-blank shots saved by Costel Pantilimon from promising positions inside the area, and then Carroll should have done better than head over from 15 yards after a superb cross from Downing.
The hosts looked toothless in attack and equally susceptible to the counter, with Downing on the left, Sakho on the right and Carroll through the middle all threatening to overwhelm the Sunderland back line.
However, down the other end, Adam Johnson was proving just as a dangerous and when he ran at an exposed James Tomkins in the right channel, the slightest of contact was enough for him to go down and referee Phil Dowd gave a penalty, much to the disgust of an irate Allardyce.
Gomez converted comfortably, but it was only a brief lead for Sunderland, whose defenders inexplicably allowed Downing to shoot left-footed from the edge of the area eight minutes later. The strike needed a deflection to defeat Pantilimon and find the bottom corner, but it was nevertheless a well-deserved equaliser.
Sakho had a fine chance to give West Ham the lead after another direct ball down the right cut hapless Sunderland left-back Anthony Reveillere out of the game, but once again the Senegal striker couldn’t capitalise and pulled his shot wide.
Sakho’s miss was made to look forgivable on the stroke of half-time when Altidore – six yards out and unmarked – inexplicably failed to make contact with a low Sebastian Larsson cross.
Sunderland improved markedly after the break, but it was still West Ham who enjoyed the better chances and Aaron Cresswell saw a low shot stopped by Pantilimon after a deft pass from Downing.
The visitors’ shot tally continued to rise, with Carroll chipping narrowly over after a latching on to a loose ball 10 yards out, before Winston Reid found the roof of the net with a looping header.
Sunderland manager Gus Poyet responded by sending on Steven Fletcher for the ineffective Altidore, and the Scot almost repaid him with a rasping left-foot shot that Adrian in the West Ham goal did well to save.
The game was now wide open and Connor Wickham thought he had stolen victory for the hosts with a shot that was tipped narrowly over, but the best chance fell to Carroll, whose low right-footer on the cusp of injury time flew just the wrong side of the post.
Soccer Saturday verdict – Charlie Nicholas
“Gus Poyet might be the happier manager. I think Sam Allardyce will be pretty agitated to have the penalty given against him. As the game wore on he ended up having a little bit of a chuckle with the referee and by the time it was level it was obviously easier for him. West Ham didn’t get too many decisions given to them, but it was a half-decent game. It lacked a bit of quality and a bit of drive at times, but West Ham were more ambitious. It’s 10 draws for Sunderland and that tells you the type of team they are.”
Sunderland: Pantilimon (8), Vergini (6), Reveillere (4), O’Shea (5), Brown (5), Cattermole (6), Larsson (6), Gomez (7), Johnson (7), Wickham (6), Altidore (4).
Used subs: Fletcher (6), Alvarez (6).
Leicester City: Adrian (7), Jenkinson (7), Cresswell (7), Reid (6), Tomkins (5), Kouyate (6), Song (7), Nolan (6), Downing (8), Carroll (7), Sakho (6).
Used subs: Valencia (6).
Man of the match: Stewart Downing.