The England World Cup hopeful took his tally in all competitions to 24 with a close-range finish four minutes before the break courtesy of Fraizer Campbell's knockdown.
Campbell had opened the scoring 16 minutes earlier as the Black Cats put the result beyond reasonable doubt before the break.
Red and white delight: Darren Bent is mobbed after doubling Sunderland's lead
Brian Laws' men now have just three games remaining in which to drag themselvesout of the relegation zone after last weekend's win at Hull had given them hope.
By contrast, Steve Bruce can start planning for another top-flightcampaign and the task of taking his club to the next level, a prospectwhich will excite the red and white section of a crowd of 41,341.
The home side were never in any real danger of surrendering a leadthey had established with little difficulty, although substitute SteveThompson's strike eight minutes from time gave them food for thought.
Bruce and Laws spent their formative years in football together atWallsend Boys' Club and then at Burnley, where the Sunderland boss wasrejected but Laws launched his playing career.
However, the former Manchester United defender had warned hisBurnley counterpart there would be no old pals act at the Stadium ofLight, and the message had apparently got through to his players.
Only Chelsea and Aston Villa have won a league game on Wearside this season andthe Clarets' hopes of joining them were effectively over within 41 minutes.
The Black Cats powered their way in front after 25 minutes when Campbell gotacross his marker to steer Alan Hutton's driven cross past goalkeeper Brian Jensen at the near post.
Campbell then unselfishly turned provider four minutes before thebreak when he got the benefit of a tight offside decision - replayssuggested the visitors were unfortunate not to see the flag go up - tohead David Meyler's cross back across goal and hand Bent the simplestof chances.
No mistake: Bent beats Brian Jensen from close range
It was little more than Sunderland deserved from a powerfulfirst-half display which at times left Burnley chasing shadows, despiteinjuries forcing Bruce to pair youngsters Jordan Henderson and Meylertogether in an inexperienced central midfield partnership.
They might have gone ahead as early as the third minute when Bent'scross very nearly crept under the crossbar after clipping defender LeonCort, and Jensen, who managed to claw the ball away on that occasion,was kept busy throughout.
He pulled off a fine 19th-minute save to keep out John Mensah's downward headerand the defender might have added his name to the scoresheet nine minutes beforethe break but could not get a meaningful touch to Steed Malbranque's free-kick.
Kenwyne Jones also hit the post with 23 minutes gone and Bent powered a34th-minute header wide when he might have done better, but a two-goal lead wasjust reward for a dominant opening 45 minutes.
The luckless Mensah, whose season has been wrecked by injury, failedto reappear after the break and was replaced by Anton Ferdinand, whileLaws also made a change when he sent on Thompson for Martin Paterson.
No holds barred: Sunderland's David Meyler (left) vies with Wade Elliott of Burnley
Steven Fletcher sent a speculative effort wide within seconds of therestart and Thompson crossed for Chris Eagles to loop a header over twominutes later as the visitors rallied.
But Sunderland were soon back in control and Jensen had to get downwell to keep out Kieran Richardson's scuffed 53rd-minute shot and thensprint from his line to only just beat Campbell to Malbranque'sthroughball seconds later.
Jensen was back in action a minute later as Jones skipped pastMichael Duff and fired in a low drive, and although the visitorsresponded gamely with Hutton having to hack away a dangerous TyroneMears cross, the home side remained very much in the ascendancy.
However, Thompson ensured a tense finish when he collected fellowsubstitute Robbie Blake's 82nd-minute pass and fired past Craig Gordon,although the fightback came too late.
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