Alim Ozturk the pantomime villain, Seny Dieng the hero in Doncaster Rovers's 0-0 at Sunderland
As he had when the sides met at the Keepmoat in Christmas week, the Turkish defender took a booking for the team with a booking for a cynical and blatant handball.
In December it might have cost Rovers a point, last night it could have been two.
Darren Moore's side laid on a very professional away performance in a meeting between two teams whose form has really picked up since they that first meeting. Even though Phil Parkinson's Sunderland picked up after a first half Rovers dominated, the visitors still carved out some good chances in a game where the only really difficult save was Seny Dieng's with his feet almost from the last kick.
But having benefited from the generosity of referee James Adcock at times, Doncaster were denied a one-on-one by Ozturk's cynicism, and the official's willingness to play the advantage. Jon Taylor, tiring at the end of a good night's work, did not have it in him to punish the defender, and Adcock was unwilling to bring play back and give Doncaster a free-kick when he did not.
They had to settled for a hard-earned 0-0.
Tayor's anticipation had turned a poor Chris Maguire pass into a very poor one in the seventh minute, but Rovers were very patient once they won the ball, eventually working it for Madger Gomes to have a shot blocked.
With the half-hour approaching, Taylor dragged a shot wide of the far post, too far in front of Reece James for the former Sunderland player to turn it into a cross.
When Taylor put in a good ball minutes later, Niall Ennis's cross failed to pick out a blue short, and his shot was blocked when he cut inside.
From the start, the home fans thought their team was on the rough end of the refereeing decisions.
Cameron John, playing at left-back behind Reece James, got away with a clumsy tackle on Chris Maguire in the seventh minute. At the end of the half the Stadium of Light was baying for a red card as Taylor and Max Power launched themselves into a 50-50 which both probably regretted going for. Taylor was the later of the two to the ball, but Adcock was reluctant to overuse his whistle or his cards, making an exception in the 42nd minute when Charlie Wyke tumbled to the ground with the penalty area escaping him.
Anderson looked to have clipped him, although Wyke gave the impression he had overrun the ball.
“You're not fit to referee,” sang the angry home fans at the break.
Some had been celebrating in the 22nd minute when Mark Lynch's header rippled the near-post side netting at a corner. A minute later Anderson headed a good chance wide from a free-kick at the other end, but neither side managed an effort on target until the 57th minute.
James and John linked brilliantly down the left and Jon McLaughlin stretched well to Madger Gomes's effort but served the ball up to, who headed wide. It would not be the last good opportunity he wasted.
Already by then, Sunderland had shown they would be a much tougher proposition in the second half, George Dobson have a shot blocked, Max Power shanking an effort and Maguire putting a good Luke O'Nien cross over in the same phase of 55th-minute play. Anderson made a heroic block from Wyke, who was caught on his heels when O'Nien flashed a ball across the box, presumably thinking as most did that the wing-back would shoot. O'Nien headed over a deep free-kick.
Sunderland turned to their expensive bench, bringing on January signing Kyle Lafferty and former Premier League winger Duncan Watmore, whereas Doncaster only fielded six substitutes – plenty, but maybe a message to the board in a so-far fruitless transfer window – and James cramped up, making way for Matty Blair.
Still, Doncaster pushed for victory and they deserved better than they got in the 73rd minute when, seeing Ennis about to burst through, Alim Ozturk raised his hand and blocked the ball. It was the second game in succession where the Turk produced a blatant handball, but because he could only divert it to Taylor, Adcock played the advantage. The tired winger could not take it, falling over himself, and Ozturk was booked when the ball eventually went out.
The final nail in the coffin would have been a late O'Nien goal, but when he spun on the ball in the fifth added minute, Dieng stuck out a boot to preserve his clean sheet.
Sunderland: J McLaughlin; Lynch, Willis, Ozturk; O'Nien, Power, Dobson, Hume; Gooch, Wyke (Lafferty 71), Maguire (Watmore 71).
Unused substitutes: Burge, C McLaughlin,, McNulty,, Leadbitter, Wright.
Doncaster Rovers: Dieng; Halliday, Anderson, Wright, James (Blair 75); Sheaf, Whiteman; Taylor (Coppinger 75), Gomes, Ennis (Watters 83); John.
Unused substitutes: Lawlor, Amos, Greaves.
Referee: J Adcock (Nottinghamshire).