With the bookies offering 16-1 on a home win, the highest odds ever on a home side to win a Premiership match, the outcome should never have been in doubt.
Sunderland boss Mick McCarthy's Premiership record of one victory in 29 games compared to Jose Mourinho's two defeats in nearly 18 months, suggested the mismatch of the century in the 100th league meeting between the two clubs.
But the game itself was far from it with the basement club having the audacity to grab an 11th minute lead with another stunning goal from Liam Lawrence, comparable to his effort in the last league match at Fulham.
Chelsea grabbed a 28th minute equaliser through Hernan Crespo and, in the 69th minute, Arjen Robben, booked for an innocuous challenge on Lawrence in the 36th minute, grabbed the winner only to be given a second yellow card for excessive celebrations.
The decision was harsh to say the least as referee Chris Foy applied the letter of the law instead of using common sense but the incident failed to rattle Chelsea who claimed a record tenth straight win.
They did it the hard way though against a Sunderland side doomed for relegation but boosted by an encouraging performance and an early goal.
John Terry could only make a weak headed clearance from Julio Arca's centre and the lurking Lawrence left goalkeeper Petr Cech helpless with a well-struck left-foot shot into the bottom corner of the net.
Frank Lampard had earlier sent two long-range efforts over the bar and then tried his luck with another rather ambitious 50-yard drive that flashed over.
Sunderland were far from overawed as they fought tooth and nail to match their more illustrious opponents only to be pegged back in the 28th minute by a typical Chelsea raid.
William Gallas broke down the right and, when he completely deceived Arca, his deep cross was nodded back across the face of goal by Joe Cole for Crespo to slot home his eighth league goal of the season.
Crespo headed over from Lampard's cross but Sunderland finished the first half strongly, coming agonisingly close to restoring the lead. Asier del Horno headed behind to give the home side their first corner after 41 minutes, Anthony Le Tallac just failing to make contact with his head then forcing Cech into a full-length save with a header in stoppage time.
Sunderland had goalkeeper Kelvin Davis to thank for an astonishing spell of four superb saves in a two-minute spell early in the second half. The recalled keeper denied Cole, Robben, Crespo and Lampard but had no chance with the winner.
Robben hit a fierce goal-bound drive only for the shot to take a cruel deflection off the head of Dean Whitehead to the delight of the Chelsea fans behind the goal. Robben led the celebrations only to be visibly shocked when he was dismissed.
Sunderland threw caution to the wind but, apart from a couple of appeals for a penalty when substitute Andy Gray was bundled over, a deserved equaliser was not forthcoming.
Sunderland's Star Man: Kelvin Davis - Recalled to the side after a disappointing run of form, the former Ipswich goalkeeper kept a rampant Chelsea at bay with a string of superb saves. No chance with either goal and will have regained confidence.
Chelsea's Star Man: Eidur Gudjohnsen: At the centre of most of the Champions' surges from midfield and for once edged out Frank Lampard. Substituted late on in favour of Robert Huth who helped to repel Sunderland's rally.