Fulham striker Bobby Zamora fired his club back into the top half of the Barclays Premier League then taunted his critics with his celebration at Craven Cottage.
The 28-year-old struck early on against Steve Bruce's men then pushed team-mate Damien Duff out of the way to finish off his gesture.
While Zamora's work-rate is appreciated by boss Roy Hodgson, his goal against Sunderland was only his 10th in two seasons since arriving from West Ham.
It means Fulham leapfrog over Sunderland into eighth, with their form reliant on home performances - they have not lost on their own turf since September.
Tennis legend Martina Navratilova was sat next to Black Cats chairman Niall Quinn in the directors' box - and she saw Zamora hit the net with a winner after seven minutes.
Before that the visitors almost grabbed an early lead. Steed Malbranque, still jeered by home fans after leaving the club in 2006, was found when Lorik Cana robbed Paul Konchesky and slipped the ball through - but Mark Schwarzer was equal to the finish.
Then came Zamora's moment. Duff laid the ball back to John Pantsil on the right flank and when the ball came over Zamora zipped in front of Phil Bardsley to head home.
It was Zamora's sixth of the season and sparked his volatile celebration. He told his critics to "shut up" after pushing team-mate Duff in the chest.
Sunderland's poor start also included a booking for Kieran Richardson, triggering a suspension as it was his fifth of a season where he has already been banned following a red card.
Erik Nevland also picked up a yellow card for sliding into the back of Anton Ferdinand's calves when the Sunderland defender was shielding the ball out of play.
It led to Ferdinand being replaced by Nyron Nosworthy, with the substitute fouling Zamora with his first act and Clint Dempsey sending the free-kick just over the crossbar.
USA international Dempsey, who England will be facing at the World Cup, also went wide when Zamora had beaten Michael Turner to flick on inside the penalty area.
Zamora got close to a second goal when he glanced on Jonathan Greening's corner - but the effort went wide of the post - and he also headed against the bar from Konchesky's cross.
Nevland was guilty of one of the misses of the season before the break when Zamora found him in the six-yard area from Dempsey's lob into the danger zone. Marton Fulop saved the first effort and Nevland blasted over the rebound with the goal at his mercy.
Fabio Capello's men will have to be wary of Dempsey's shoot-on-sight policy, with the attacking-midfielder firing wide just after the restart.
At the other end, Konchesky's under-hit backpass presented a chance for Kenwyne Jones to score but the Trinidad and Tobago forward had his finish saved by Schwarzer.
The visitors got even closer to an equaliser when Darren Bent met Richardson's cross with a first-time volley that flew just wide.
Former Tottenham striker Bent also flashed wildly over the crossbar after Fulham failed to deal with a straightforward cross from Andy Reid.
Bolo Zenden came on for Sunderland and Schwarzer had to save his long-range effort before the end.
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