Garry Monk's reign as permanent manager was launched in style as Swansea prevented Sunderland from ending their season with five successive Barclays Premier League wins.
The Swans raced into a 2-0 lead within 14 minutes of the kick-off when first Nathan Dyer and then Marvin Emnes produced finishes of real quality with the home side in disarray.
Fabio Borini dragged the home side back into it with a 50th-minute header, his 10th goal of the season, but Wilfried Bony's strike four minutes later dented their hopes once again to seal a 3-1 victory for the visitors.
Victory for the visitors ensured they remained ahead of resurgent Sunderland in the table with Gus Poyet's men targeting an improbable 12th-place finish before kick-off just four days after securing their top-flight status in memorable style.
But for the locals among a crowd of 45,580 at the Stadium of Light, it was still a day of celebration despite their side losing at home in the league for the 11th time this season.
Just a few weeks ago, it appeared that the final day of the campaign would be marked by either a desperate scrap for survival or worse, a Premier League wake.
In the event, the red and white faithful turned out to celebrate an improbable fightback which had been completed against the odds without having to resort to last-gasp heroics.
It was probably just as well as Poyet's side, in stark contrast to recent weeks, started lethargically and were made to pay a heavy price.
Whether it was the mental and physical effects of a tense few weeks or simply a bad day at the office, the Black Cats were torn apart inside the opening quarter of an hour and found themselves facing the steepest of climbs.
Monk, taking charge for the first time since his appointment was confirmed, made six changes and two of those who benefited from his largesse took full advantage.
Dyer could hardly believe his luck when, with just seven minutes on the clock, Wayne Routledge played him in behind left-back Phil Bardsley, but he kept his nerve to lift a deft shot over the advancing Vito Mannone and into the back of the net.
Not to be outdone, Emnes demonstrated his prowess seven minutes later when, after receiving strike-partner Bony's pass with his back to goal, effortlessly turned John O'Shea and blasted a left-footed shot past the Italian 'keeper.
Sunderland, who were struggling to contain Routledge and Dyer in particular, finally started to find their feet and worked their way into the game, but were rarely able to find a final ball to trouble Gerhard Tremmel in the Swansea goal.
Indeed, the German's most anxious moment came when Sebastian Larsson's 27th-minute cross flicked off defender Jordi Amat's head and came back off the foot of the post.
Bardsley warmed Tremmel's fingertips with a rising 25-yard strike a minute before the break, but the deficit remained untouched when the half-time whistle sounded.
The Black Cats started the second half with much greater urgency than they had the first, and they were back in the game within five minutes when Borini met Adam Johnson's corner at the near post and headed firmly past Swans goalkeeper Tremmel.
Tremmel preserved his side's lead with a solid diving save after Johnson had cut inside and unleashed a left-foot shot seconds later and the mood inside the Stadium of Light had altered dramatically.
However, the visitors responded in determined fashion and re-established their advantage with 54 minutes gone when Jack Colback could only help Emnes' cross out to Bony, who stepped outside Bardsley before firing home off the inside of the post.
Tremmel had to get down well to keep out Sebastian Larsson's swerving 71st-minute free-kick and substitute Ondrej Celustka could not convert the rebound from a tight angle.
The game ambled towards its conclusion with both sides still committing men in attack, but safe in the knowledge that there was little at stake other than pride.
Substitute Jozy Altidore might have ended a difficult season in style with an 84th-minute missile which flew just high and wide, but that was as good as it got.