Everton failed to create enough going forward in the second half as the Black Cats held out for a win that lifts them six points clear of the relegation zone.
Here, Sports Mole takes an in-depth look at the 90 minutes of football between the two sides.
On target 4
On target 5
Was the result fair?
Yes, just about. Neither team played particularly well and it was an even match for large periods, but Sunderland created more in an attacking sense so deserved the win. They had two very good chances other than the goal and also came close with a number of free kicks, while Everton failed to break the hosts down and Simon Mignolet had a pretty quiet afternoon.
It wasn't exactly the finished article, but it is clear to see what impact manager Paolo Di Canio has had at the club already. Every Sunderland player was desperate to win and they showed great hunger and desire throughout. They seemed to want it more than the Everton players and, although it was a mistake that led to the goal, their work ethic was perhaps the biggest reason behind their success this afternoon. If they play like that in their remaining games, then they should be safe.
Poor. The Toffees were far short of their best and manager David Moyes will be angry that their Champions League challenge has pretty much ended with such a whimper. Their best players - the likes of Leighton Baines, Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar - weren't involved in the game enough and they really struggled to break Sunderland's defence down. They had a number of good attacking platforms, but Mignolet didn't have a lot to do.
Sports Mole's man of the match
Danny Rose: There were no outstanding individual performances from Sunderland as they worked very well as a team, but one player who typified their desire to win the match was Danny Rose. He was a threat when attacking down the left and had a very good game defensively. The Black Cats' defence was very solid today and Rose played a big part in ensuring that it stayed that way.
This has to go to Leighton Baines. The full-back is usually very reliable and has been Everton's best player this season, which makes his mistake that led to the goal even worse. He misplaced an easy pass into midfield, allowing Sunderland to launch into an attack that ultimately yielded a goal. It was a careless pass and, a matter of seconds later, the ball was in the back of the net.
Phil Dowd had a decent game this afternoon. He didn't have any major calls to make, but on a couple of occasions tempers threatened to boil over and he dealt with that well. Some of the decisions he made were perhaps a bit harsh, but that is being pedantic as, overall, he had a solid game.
Sunderland: Next up for Sunderland is a trip to face fellow strugglers Aston Villa.
Everton: Everton, meanwhile, take on Fulham in their next match before making the small trip to Anfield for a Merseyside derby against Liverpool.