Chelsea fans laid into their stars following the dismissal of Jose Mourinho and the players responded with a three-goal salvo that gave stand-in boss Steve Holland three vital points.
Goals from Branislav Ivanovic, Pedro and a penalty from Oscar propelled the Blues to the dizzy heights of 14th in the Premier League.
A goal by Fabio Borini brought the visitors back into the game and the Black Cats could have snatched a point but chances were missed by Borini and Jemain Defoe.
The sideshow to the game was the fans response to Mourinho's midweek sacking
The Chelsea fans made it perfectly clear who they are blaming for the demise of Jose Mourinho. During the pre-match PA announcement Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas were booed.
Only Willian escaped any ire from the fans.
After five minutes and during a chorus of "Stand up for the Special One" fan favourite Willian arrowed in a corner and Branislav Ivanovic bullet-headed the ball past Costello Pantilimon.
Number two followed seven minutes later as an Ivanovic cross into the Sunderland penalty area and Pedro was quick to lash in a smart left footer into the roof of the net.
A chorus of "Where were you when you were s**t" echoed around the Stadium, as Chelsea fans turned on the players who had put them in such dire circumstances in the league.
Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce made a tactical decision to replace Sebastien Coates with winger Adam Johnson on 23 minutes.
Oscar should have made it number three on 26 minutes when he weaved through the Sunderland back four, but Pantilimon saved well from the midfielders edge of the penalty area shot.
Duncan Watmore latched onto a wonderful long ball, and with one touch almost snatched a goal back for the visitors on 33 minutes, but his clipped left footer inched wide of Thibaut Courtois.
Costa should have, however hit number three for the home side but he snatched at the effort and the ball dropped over the crossbar.
Seconds later, on 38 minutes, and after scintillating interchange between Willian And Pedro, the ball was perched up perfectly for Costa but he headed wide of goal.
There were no changes at half time and within two minutes the Blues we awarded penalty when Willian appeared to be upended by Pantilimon. Oscar cooly slotted home the resultant spot kick.
But the Blues showed their old defensive frailties when a simple Adan Johnson clipped free kick was met by the head of Younes Kaboul. The ball spun out of Courtois's grasp and ex-Blue Fabio Borini the ball home.
ExWest Ham man Jermain Defoe almost go the visitors back into the game but he flashed a left foot wide of goal on 64 minutes.
In an attempt to shore up the game, Holland replaced Fabregas with Mikel. Fabregas got a standing ovation from the Chelsea dugout and from director of football Michael Emenalo behind them and several Chelsea players including Costa and Willian.
But the fans were not having it and booed him off.
The scene was repeated five minutes later as Costa left the pitch to a chorus of Jose Mourinho while Emenalo and the dugout clapped him off. Loic Remy replaced him.
The substitutions seemed to work and the Blues held on snatch the three points.
Next up, a Boxing Day match at the Bridge against Watford.
Chelsea, Courtois, Ivanovic, Fabregas, Zouma, Oscar, Pedro, Costa, Matic, Willian, Terry, Azpilicueta
Subs, Begivic, Baba, Ramires, Mikel, Traore, Remy Cahill
Sunderland, Pantilimon, Jones, van Aanholt, Rodwell, Kaboul, O'Shea, Defoe, Toivonen, M'Vila, Coates, Watmore
Subs, Mannone, Borini, Johnson, Gomez, Graham, Yedlin, Fletcher
Referee: Roger East