The Black Cats had not tasted victory in the Premier League since the 1-0 success over Arsenal last November.
Sunderland 4-0 Bolton Wanderers: As it happened
But that all changed on Wearside as Steve Bruce's side crushed the Trotters. Darren Bent was the hat-trick hero for the hosts, but the star of the show was Steed Malbranque.
The Frenchman out of favour recently, pulled all the strings and set up chance after chance with some impeccable passing.
The Black Cats got off to a flier, taking the lead just 48 seconds into the encounter. Skipper Lorik Cana lobbed the ball into the box and Fraizer Campbell was there to force the ball over the line.
The Trotters could have been back on level terms after just four minutes, as Cana tried to chest the ball inside his own area and almost got caught out.
After that though, it was the hosts who came out on top. Bruce's side looked dangerous when they hit Bolton on the break, but were unable to add to their tally before the break.
Bent had the best chance following another quick break on 23 minutes. Malbranque found Campbell out wide on the right.
The youngster held on to the ball instead of running at his man and then delivered a delightful pass over the top to Bent.
The striker cut inside, but seemed to slip before pulling the trigger and the ball drifted wide of the upright.
Kenwyne Jones wasn't far away with a couple of efforts from the edge of the box, as the Black Cats looked to build on their lead.
It wasn't all one-way traffic though and the Wearsiders still looked very nervy at the back at times.
However, the visitors weren't able to force a save out of Craig Gordon in the opening half, as their bit chances went either high or wide.
The Wearsiders found their scoring boots after the break and were two goals to the good on 64 minutes. Malbranque played the ball in to Campbell, who threaded in a pass for Bent to lose his marker and fire home.
After that there was no looking back for the hosts and they were 3-0 up on 73 minutes.
Another superb ball through from Malbranque found Bent, who was pushed to the ground by Sam Ricketts.
The Bolton defender had already been shown a yellow card and saw a second, quickly followed by a red, as referee Steve Bennett pointed to the spot.
Up stepped Bent for his second of the evening and Sunderland's third and it was game over.
Campbell again turned provider on 87 minutes as he pulled the ball back from the byline as Bent struck to complete his hat-trick.
With the game in time added on Campbell should have made it five, but he fired straight at Jussi Jaaskelainen in the away goal.