Sunderland’s Hawthorns hoodoo continued as West Bromwich Albion ran out 2-0 victors over David Moyes’ side.
The damage was done before the break as Darren Fletcher’s inventive strike opened the scoring on 30 minutes, with Chris Brunt crashing home a second six minutes later.
George Honeyman provided a bright spark for Sunderland on his first Premier League start, performing admirably and displaying a mentality beyond his years.
But there was little he could do to prevent the Baggies from clinching three points, with Tony Pulis’ side overpowering the Black Cats, who lacked a cutting edge.
Sunderland boss Moyes made a host of changes to the starting XI but it was a player who retained his place that captured the headlines, with Honeyman selected after impressing at Turf Moor.
John O’Shea and Jermain Defoe returned to the line-up – as did Billy Jones and Jack Rodwell – with Victor Anichebe named on the bench following a return to fitness.
West Brom started well and they tested the Sunderland defence early on, but the Black Cats stepped up to the plate and defended well with Papy Djilobodji making a crucial back-post interception.
The Baggies remained camped in the final third as the high-pressing Claudio Yacob thwarted the Lads’ attempts to the relieve the pressure, with the opening exchanges coming to an encouraging conclusion as Defoe’s first sight at goal was deflected behind.
Seb Larsson was the man behind Sunderland’s resurgence and his desire changed the pace of the game, with the Swede on a one-man mission to regain possession and drive forward at every opportunity.
Salomon Rondon was relatively subdued during the opening 20 minutes but he soon sparked into life, with Jones grappling the frontman before he crashed to ground following fine wing play from Matt Phillips.
Replays indicated it could and possibly should have been a penalty, but he quickly dusted himself down and sent a 20-yard half-volley hurtling over the crossbar.
And Rondon was in the thick of it once more as the half-hour mark approached, with Phillips blocking his team-mate’s header as the Sunderland defence watched with baited breath as the ball squirmed inches wide.
Moments later they were watching once more, and this time they were punished.
The Black Cats failed to deal with an out-swinging corner on multiple occasions, with the ball eventually dropping to Fletcher who turned on a sixpence before sending a sumptuous volley into the corner.
And they didn’t learn their lesson, with the Baggies doubling their lead six minutes later.
It was a wonderfully crafted move from the home side but Sunderland once again declined the chance to clear, with Phillips nutmegging O’Shea before flashing the ball across goal where Chadli clattered the bar after Mannone spilled the ball.
The danger was seemingly over, but Brunt was quickest to react and he arrived at full pelt to volley an unstoppable drive into the top corner and heap further misery on Moyes’ men.
Sunderland improved following the restart and they saw a lot of more of the ball, but they failed to test Ben Foster with Rodwell firing over the crossbar and Defoe seeing an effort blocked.
Anichebe was introduced with 25 minutes remaining, but it was the energy of Honeyman which provided hope as the spirited youngster ran himself into the ground.
A superb run deep into the final third typified his performance and created a chance, with the midfielder eventually picking out Jones whose tame header was dealt with by Foster.
A forced change followed as Denayer took one in the proverbials and was unable to continue, but the arrival of Borini did little to turn the tide as the Baggies remained menacing on the counter.
Their best chance to grab a third came in the 84th minute as Phillips countered following a breakdown in communications, but Honeyman thwarted the winger by tracking him down – a full 60 yards – before sliding in to avert the danger.
And so it ended 2-0, with the Black Cats heading back to Wearside empty-handed.
West Bromwich Albion: Foster, Nyom, Yacob, Morrison (Livermore 72), Rondon (Robson-Kanu 87), Phillips, Brunt, Chadli (McClean 81), McAuley, Fletcher, Dawson.
Subs not used: Myhill, Olsson, Leko, Field.
Sunderland: Mannone, Jones, O’Shea, Djilobdoji, van Aanholt, Denayer (Borini 79), Larsson, Rodwell, Honeyman, Januzaj (Anichebe 66), Defoe.
Subs not used: Mika, Love, E Robson, Embleton, T Robson.
Goals: Fletcher (30 mins), Brunt (36 mins).
Yellow cards: Honeyman.