It was Albion's first win since Middlesbrough were dispatched on Jan 17 and if it all feels a little too late, Sunderland certainly have time to save themselves, though any more impoverished performances like this could yet conclude in Wearside heartbreak.
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Albion started brightly, pushing the visitors back. Marc-Antoine Fortune provided an early examination for Anton Ferdinand and Calum Davenport and Marton Fulop had to smother a low, squirming shot from Albion's in-form Chris Brunt. Moments later, Brunt fired over from 25 yards.
Albion's positive approach drew a deserved reward five minutes before the interval with a goal created by their central defensive pairing. Abdoulaye Meite rose to flick on Jonathan Greening's corner and fellow centre-back Jonas Olsson swung a low shot beyond Trevor Carson.
Sunderland's discomfort grew rapidly after the break and on the hour Fortune burst past Ferdinand on the edge of the penalty area and cut the ball back for Brunt to slide in his ninth goal of the season.
Apart from Djibril Cisse scooping over from six yards, Sunderland had little to offer. Albion emphasised the point in the 88th minute when Brunt turned provider, leaving Argentine substitute Juan Carlos Menseguez to stroke his first Albion goal beyond Fulop.