Spurs then sealed the victory at the start of the second half as John O'Shea put the ball into his own net.
Here, Sports Mole takes a closer look at the action between the sides at the Stadium of Light.
On target 4
On target 5
Was the result fair?
Sunderland certainly had their chances during sporadic spells of pressure, but Spurs ran out worthy winners and would have had a few more goals were it not for some poor finishing.
Gus Poyet's side put in a worryingly inconsistent display as they showed plenty of spirit in the first half before shying away from the challenge in the second. The standout performers were Phil Bardsley, Johnson and Jozy Altidore, though there was little to write home about in terms of what the team as a whole gave. In truth, the result flattered the Black Cats as Spurs could easily have scored plenty more with the chances that they created.
The visitors rode their luck at times during the first half, but they dominated large spells of the match after the break and should have scored at least another three goals. Defensively they were sound, while the talent that they have in midfield and attack pinned Sunderland back for the second half. The link-up play was ruthless at times, with the width provided by Moussa Dembele, Nacer Chadli, Aaron Lennon and Kyle Walker vital to their cause. Andre Villas-Boas is sure to be happy with the result, though his team's inability to convert their chances may well play on his mind.
Sports Mole's man of the match
Paulinho: The Spurs midfielder was an anchor for his side thanks to a controlled and dynamic performance in the centre of the park. He was involved in plenty of the visitors' attacking moves and was rewarded for his fine display with a goal.
Hugo Lloris will be pleased that his teammates turned the game around after he gifted Sunderland the opening goal. The goalkeeper got nowhere near Ondrej Celutska's cross, allowing Johnson to fire into an almost-empty net.
Lee Mason blew up for silly little fouls all too often, contributing to a stop-start affair at times. He got some of those decisions right, but he should have given Sunderland a penalty when Sandro handled the ball blatantly inside his own box with Spurs leading 2-1.
Sunderland: The Black Cats continue their fight against relegation next Saturday when they travel to fellow strugglers West Ham United.
Spurs: Tottenham finish their Europa League group stage campaign on Thursday at home to Anzhi Makhachkala with a place already secured in the next round.