McCarthy was left still seeking his first long overdue Premier League victory at the Stadium of Light because his team fell apart after an impressive recovery had suggested he might break his duck but his players had flattered to deceive.
Related ArticlesPremier League tablePremier League photosTelegraph player raterPremier League fixturesSport on televisionMcCarthy oversaw 24 Premier League games without celebrating a home victory on Wearside during a three-year spell that ended in the sack in
2006 and that familiar sinking feeling would have been going through the Yorkshireman's head in the opening exchanges of this game.
That is thanks to Lee Mason's decision to award Sunderland a contentious ninth-minute penalty. Mason pointed to the penalty spot when Darren Bent tumbled under a challenge from Segundo Castillo but television replays showed the Ecuadorian had made contact with the ball.
Castillo's team-mates were understandably apoplectic but Bent remained calm and slotted a low spot-kick into the bottom left-hand corner beyond Wayne Hennessy's reach.
The Wolves response was impressive and the visitors should have been awarded their own penalty on the half-hour when Michael Turner bundled into the back of Kevin Doyle following Andy Keogh's free-kick but Sunderland enjoyed another lucky break.
Wolves grew in confidence as the Sunderland retreated and Doyle came within inches of equalising but his glancing header following Keogh's free-kick drifted narrowly wide.
Kenwyne Jones appeared to have put the contest beyond Wolves in the minute when he took over the penalty-taking duties from Bent and sent Hennessy the wrong way after Christophe Berra had upended Bent.
That should have been that but Berra spearheaded the recovery, bursting forward into Sunderland's penalty box from left-back before unleashing a rising shot that Craig Gordon pushed into the retreating John Mensah - in for Anton Ferdinand - and the ball trickled over the line.
Given the first-half's lack of justice, no one could begrudge McCarthy a bit of good fortune and he got a helping hand from Craig Gordon as the scores were leveled.
The Scottish international was forced to push away Richardson's hurried back-pass and when Doyle scrambled in the equaliser from close-range after Karl Henry's free-kick ricocheted off the wall.
Wolves were looking good bets to go on and win but then Jones intervened, beating Hennessy with a 25-yard daisy-cutter after Bent had laid off Turners' punt forward and Michael Mancienne and Berra invited the striker to take aim.
Turner then grabbed his first goal in Sunderland colours when he darted clear of Berra to head past the helpless Hennessy in the 73rd minute from an Andy Reid corner.
Bent completed the rout in stoppage time with a low shot that beat Hennessy thanks to a deflection off Mancienne for his seventh goal this season.