This was a game that could have ended two, three, four goals apiece and had a Tom Flanagan header not been controversially disallowed towards the end of the first half, perhaps the afternoon would have panned out differently.
But there is no question that Bolton deserved something from 90 minutes which showed they are developing a tougher shell on their travels and that in Hill they do have a manager willing to try new things.
The Whites had some outstanding chances, too. Ronan Darcy was twice denied by goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin in the first half – but the keeper’s best work came in clawing Daryl Murphy’s header off the line when he had not right to do so in the second.
For Sunderland’s part, they grew stronger in the latter stages, threatening to wear down Bolton’s resolve. Remi Matthews produced two superb fingertip saves to deny Chris Maguire and Marc McNulty and preserve his clean sheet.
That frustration led to loud and unequivocal calls for Parkinson’s head from the home team – not something that in itself would have pleased Hill but at least pointed to the fact his side were getting the job done.
The manager had been the focus of attention before kick-off as he named an unchanged side. Liam Bridcutt’s inclusion at centre-back was an eyebrow-raiser against Southend but perhaps more so away from home against a team now exhibiting the clear signs of Parkinson’s direct brand of football.
If his judgement was questioned before kick-off then it should be applauded afterwards. Bridcutt defended stoutly, helped enormously by some truly gargantuan displays either side of him from Jake Wright, Josh Emmanuel and Josh Earl.
Errors had been commonplace against Southend, particularly in the first 20 minutes. And the tendency to concede free kicks around the penalty box continued here on Wearside.
Home fans screamed for a penalty early on when the ball jumped up and struck Earl on the arm. Their mood would have deteriorated further had Darcy properly punished a mistake at the other end.
The youngster was always in the thick of things early on and should have put at least one goal on the board when Verlinden clipped a perfect cross from the right and his volley cleared the bar.
Sunderland looked like a team living on their nerves. McLaughlin’s poor clearance at the end of the first half landed at Daryl Murphy’s feet but the Irish striker couldn’t quite get the finesse on his shot towards the empty net from 40 yards.
He also got around the Sunderland keeper at one stage, opting to square a cross which dropped into Luke Murphy’s path – his shot again finding McLaughlin in the way.
The home side were not particularly intricate with their build up but they fired enough quality crosses into he box to make life tough for Bolton. Charlie Wyke – once the Whites’ number one striker target – was inches away from turning in one centre from Watmore, and the apparent barge from Flanagan on Matthews which prompted ref Ross Joyce to scrub out his header did not look at second glance especially clear-cut.
Wanderers’ hard work continued after the restart, as did their threat on the break.
Wide men Verlinden and Dodoo tucked in an auxiliary full-backs at times to defend against the Black Cats’ 3-4-3 formation, but they showed plenty of energy to spring forward, too.
Such a counter enabled Verlinden to race through on the last defender on the hour mark. But the Belgian failed to spot Luke Murphy free to his left, and ended up with only a corner.
The chances continued to be traded left and right as O’Nien blasted wide close in on goal and Dodoo nearly nipped in at the near post to turn in Emmanuel’s low cross.
The big moment arrived 20 minutes before the end. Emmanuel beat two defenders on the right to clip a perfect ball in for Daryl Murphy, which was pushed one-handed off the line from point-blank range by McLaughlin. It is hard to remember a better save against Wanderers in 2019, if not further.
Sunderland’s fanbase started to ebb towards the exits, leaving those intent on making their point.
Parkinson experienced such moments at Bolton. He should be given opportunity to do something about it in January but football seldom runs the way you think it should.
Matthews had also come in for criticism after the Southend game – but from the moment he punched away an early free kick, he looked ready to make a point. After pushing away Maguire’s free kick he came up with an even better save to deny McNulty an opportunity to distract the terrace boo boys.
And who could have denied Bolton a point after such a gutsy display?
Hill recognised his team’s deficiencies away from home but seems to have happened upon a system which is starting to work. If he can marry that up with a more attacking approach at the UniBol against Shrewsbury and Burton in the next couple of games, there really could be something to celebrate in 2020.