Sunderland 2-3 Crystal Palace
Attendance: 38, 941 (909 away)
Christian Benteke stunned Sunderland at the Stadium of Light as the Belgian’s 94th-minute winner saw Crystal Palace come from 2-0 down to seal three points on Wearside.
The Black Cats weathered an early storm as Benteke and Yohan Cabaye impressed, but as the opening 45 minute wore on the visitors became frustrated and they eventually fell behind.
Steve Mandanda and Damian Delaney were at fault, playing a woeful one-two with each other which allowed Defoe to stroll into the box and caress the ball into the corner.
It should have been the catalyst for Sunderland who doubled their advantage on the hour mark – Defoe bringing his Premier League tally to 147 – but bitter frustration followed as the Black Cats blew a two-goal lead.
Joe Ledley started the comeback with the Welshman’s deflected effort leaving Jordan Pickford with no chance, and with 14 minutes remaining James McArthur decisively headed home to set up a grandstand finale.
But it was Benteke who stepped up and with seconds remaining he struck a seismic blow to capture three points for Palace.
The Black Cats were handed a major boost ahead of kick-off as Steven Pienaar and Defoe both returned to the starting XI, with Adnan Januzaj also recalled following a one-match ban.
Javier Manquillo was restored to a back four which included Lamine Kone, Papy Djilobodji and Partick van Aanholt, as Lee Cattermole made his first start of the season at the Stadium of Light.
Victor Anichebe was named on the bench.
Crystal Palace made a strong start to the game with Cabaye easing into the box after fine hold-up play from Benteke, but the Black Cats blocked the cross to clear the danger.
McArthur operated in the no.10 role during the opening stages and supported Benteke well, but it was former Newcastle United midfielder Cabaye who threatened early on.
The Frenchman picked up a number of dangerous positions seeing a shot blocked by Djilobodji before forcing Kone into a last-ditch interception as the Eagles moved through the gears.
Sunderland also showed encouraging signs during the opening 15 minutes but they were forced into an early change as Pienaar limped down the tunnel and Duncan Watmore entered the fray.
And the England under-21 international settled instantly into the game with a number of surging runs putting the Palace backline under pressure.
Benteke, who opened his Palace account in the north east against Middlesbrough, continued to impress but as the half-hour mark approached the Black Cats almost stunned the visitors.
Januzaj crafted the move showing brilliant awareness to fire the ball wide to van Aanholt, and the Dutchman’s early cross was met by Defoe whose cheeky flick deflected inches wide of the far post.
A scrappy period ensued as both sides effectively cancelled each other out, and it caused a lapse in concentration from Palace who handed Sunderland a guilt-edged opportunity to open the scoring.
And open it they did – a poor pass from Mandanda put Ledley in all kinds of trouble and, under pressure from Januzaj, he rolled the ball into the path of Defoe who steered it into the corner.
With the initiative seized the Black Cats went in search of a second and, although they couldn’t find one, they carried their momentum into the second period.
Watmore was a menace throughout and his pace caused constant problems – more indecisive defending from Palace gifting him an opening – with Januzaj also growing in confidence.
And with one hour played Sunderland made it 2-0 as Defoe grabbed his second of the game.
Wave after wave crashed against the Palace defence as they struggled to clear as Mandanda parried Defoe's effort, but the French ‘keeper was powerless to deny the 33-year-old seconds later as he buried a chance from ten yards.
Sunderland were coasting, but with one minute of extending their lead they were pegged back as Ledley's hit and hope took a wicked deflection and bobbled past the helpless Pickford.
And, having looked entirely comfortable just minutes before, the Black Cats saw their lead evaporate with 76 minutes played as McArthur headed home from close range.
David Moyes’ side responded well and attempted to find a winner, but in the 94th minute they were dealt a seismic blow as Benteke headed home to seal victory for the visitors.
Sunderland: Pickford, Manquillo, van Aanholt, Djilobodji, Kone, Cattermole (McNair, 85), Kirchhoff, Ndong, Pienaar (Watmore, 15), Januzaj (Anichebe, 85), Defoe.
Substitutes: Mika, Denayer, Khazri, O’Shea.
Crystal Palace: Ward, Tomkins, Cabaye (Wickham, 71), Townsend, Ledley, Benteke, McArthur, Delaney, Mandanda, Kelly (Fryers, 74), Puncheon (Chung-Young, 92+2).
Substitutes: Hennessey, Mutch, Sako, Wynter.