Dave Kitson is finally beginning to find his feet at Stoke, 13 months after a £5.5million move from Reading.
The 29-year-old striker scored the winner in the 43rd minute with his first Premier League goal for the club.
It came after he had also found the target in the Carling Cup victory against Leyton Orient in midweek.
Kitson' change in fortune is remarkable after the events of last season. He failed to score in 18 appearances and returned to Reading on loan in January.
However when they failed to win promotion he headed back to Stoke to try and re-ignite his career.
Kitson put in a hard shift against Sunderland, who found it difficult to cope with the set-pieces that the home side have become renowned for.
Stoke were in control and manager Tony Pulis gave late run-outs to new signings Tuncay and Robert Huth, who were on the bench.
There was a scare for the visitors after only four minutes when goalkeeper Craig Gordon, who had only recently recovered from a knee injury, was left on the floor after a challenge from Kitson.
Kitson took advantage of some indecision from Nyron Nosworthy to get goal-side of a pass from Liam Lawrence.
The Stoke striker raced on only to be blocked by Gordon, who was winded but recovered quickly.
The visitors responded and Darren Bent found space inside the area, only to see his shot blocked by Abdoulaye Faye.
Danny Higginbotham then did well to block Bent's effort after the Sunderland striker played a neat one-two with Kenwyne Jones.
Play switched down the other end and Jones got in the way of a thunderbolt from Glenn Whelan to divert it to safety in the 25th minute.
Gordon then had to look alert in the 36th minute to take the ball off Liam Lawrence after a soft back pass from Anton Ferdinand.
Sunderland launched a swift break in the 41st minute when Lorik Cana slipped the ball through to Bent.
The former Tottenham striker turned quickly, only to curl his effort wide of the post.
Stoke made the breakthrough in the 43rd minute following a goalmouth scramble. Sunderland failed to clear Lawrence's corner and Kitson was on hand to score.
Stoke increased the pressure and Gordon did well to punch away a long-throw from Delap as Ryan Shawcross waited for any slip-up from the goalkeeper.
Lawrence almost added a second for the home side in the 48th minute but Phil Bardsley
cleared his effort off the line.
Stoke kept up the pressure and Lawrence headed wide four minutes later following a cross from Etherington.
Delap tried to pick out Fuller when a shot looked on and the chance was wasted because of a poor pass.
The visitors were finding it hard to cope, especially when it came to set-pieces and dead ball situations.
Ryan Shawcross got on the end of a free-kick from Lawrence but his touch was poor and Gordon was able to make the save.
Kitson then released Fuller inside the area after 69 minute but he cleared the bar with his effort.
Kitson almost added a second in the 71st minute when he got on the end of a corner from Lawrence, only to head wide.
Tuncay was then introduced for Fuller 13 minutes later and was
quickly into the action. He picked out Kitson but his cross was poor and the chance was lost.
Huth was also given a brief run-out when he came on for Kitson with two minutes to go as Stoke secured the three points.