Results of pre-season friendlies are, of course, an irrelevance.

Albion manager Gus Poyet has stated as much himself. The only results that matter for the Seagulls are those in League One from early next month.

That said, it was impossible not to be encouraged by events on a warm and breezy night on the Algarve.

Albion’s bright performance, especially in the opening 45 minutes, was worthy of victory against their Premier League rivals, which they were only denied by a late equaliser.

The starting line-up selected by Poyet last night will be significantly different through the spine of the team when Albion launch their League One campaign at Swindon a fortnight on Saturday.

New centre half Gordon Greer is banned for the trip to his old club and so too is centre forward Glen Murray.

Poyet’s pre-match intention was to give the pair a full 90 minutes against the Black Cats, as they will not be featuring as prominently in the remaining friendlies. The rest of the starting line-up facing Sunderland are likely to figure at Swindon.

Michael Poke is favourite to get the nod in goal over the less experienced Mitch Walker, with Peter Brezovan ruled out by a wrist fracture.

Inigo Calderon and Marcos Painter are certainties for the fullback positions, ditto Tommy Elphick in the centre of defence.

There is more doubt, and more competition, in midfield, where Alan Navarro joined recent recruits Matt Sparrow and Radostin Kishishev last night.

Sunderland’s new arrival from Wigan, former Newcastle centre half Titus Bramble, was an interested spectator.

Albion were entitled to feel at home, considering the striking resemblance of the Estadio Municipal de Albufeira to Withdean.

The covered main stand was well populated by a healthy mix of opposing supporters but it was the Albion fans who enjoyed what they witnessed for the majority of the first half.

Apart from an early scare, when Sunderland’s leftwinger Martyn Waghorn blazed over, the Seagulls were the better side.

Exploiting Elliott Bennett’s pace with regularity down the right, they caused the Black Cats defence numerous problems, particularly from a flurry of corners.

Greer escaped his marker to head narrowly high and wide from one of them.

An audacious swerving cross-shot from Bulgarian veteran Kishishev had to be tipped over the bar by keeper Trevor Carson, leading to a corner in the 12th minute from which Albion thought they had taken the lead.

Bennett’s inswinging delivery was nodded in by Murray but it was disallowed by the Portuguese referee for a push.

Murray could, with a bit more luck and precise finishing, have helped himself to a hat-trick by the interval, as Albion knocked the ball around confidently and created opportunities with almost embarrassing ease.

He clipped a shot just over the bar from just inside the box following good combination play between Calderon and Bennett.

Murray then spurned a sitter, missing the target on the volley from point blank range when goal side of Sunderland’s rearguard from a Bennett free kick.

It was no surprise, and certainly no more than the Seagulls deserved, when Murray slotted them ahead from the penalty spot a minute from the break after Bolo Zenden handled a Painter cross.

Sunderland’s display infuriated a group of foul-mouthed fans to such an extent that they were ordered by police to cool down. Their mood was not improved by Waghorn firing wide seconds into the restart after the ball bounced over Calderon’s head inside his own box.

Worse followed for Albion’s high-ranking opponents, centre half George McCartney leaving the field on a stretcher with a leg injury.

At least it spared him from further punishment at the hands of Murray but there was no such reprieve for McCartney’s partner, Matt Kilgallon.

The Seagulls’ hungry spearhead had earlier dispossessed Kilgallon, only to see his curling effort kept out one-handed by Carson.

The only disappointment for Albion was Sunderland’s leveller in the 85th minute, which came after several substitutions by both teams.

Two of the Sunderland replacements spared their blushes, Fraser Campbell lunging to volley in a Jordan Henderson free kick from close range.

Albion (4-3-3): Poke; Calderon (El-Abd 86), Greer, Elphick, Painter; Navarro, Sparrow (Battipiedi 84), Kishishev (Dicker 69); Bennett (Morais 75), Murray, Barnes (Baz 84). Subs: Walker, Cook, Hall, Jamie Smith, Hart, Holroyd.

Sunderland (4-4-2): Carson; Bardsley, Ferdinand, Kilgallon, McCartney (Malbranque 62); Zenden (Henderson 60), Colback, Richardson, Waghorn (Liddle 75); Bent, Jones (Campbell 60).