Adam Johnson netted his fifth goal in his past three league outings to allow the Black Cats to move out of the relegation zone as ten-man Stoke copped a fifth defeat in six to leave them in 16th spot.
Fabio Borini's well-hit effort was spilled by Potters keeper Asmir Begovic with Johnson able to slot home from an angle to send Sunderland on their way.
Any chance of Mark Hughes' Stoke getting back into the contest was put to rest when midfielder Steven N'Zonzi was sent off after receiving two yellow cards, both for challenges on Jozy Altidore.
The victory is a massive boost for Gus Poyet who has improved Sunderland's results dramatically, having lost just once in eight league games since December 7.
2013/14 Barclays Premier League season scores
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