Nicklas Bendtner got the only goal of a gloomy game in the second half to sink the Reds and ask more questions of the strength of Liverpool’s squad.
In desperate need for three points to turn around som miserable form of late, despite the Carling Cup Final win last month, Kenny Dalglish named an attacking line-up which included Luis Suarez, Craig Bellamy and Dirk Kuyt.
With Daniel Agger out injured, Sebastian Coates was preferred to Jamie Carragher alongside Martin Skrtel in central defence.
Jordan Henderson started against his boyhood club, whilst Steven Gerrard was on the bench along with Stewart Downing.
It was a poor performance from the Reds, who remain seventh in the Premier League table with just two wins from their last ten league games.
Liverpool lacked any spark or conviction going forward. Charlie Adam struggled to provide adequate balls into the box, whilst Bellamy and Kuyt were mostly invisible for the majority of the game.
The Black Cats had a bit of luck to get their winner when Fraizer Campbell’s shot rebounded off the post, onto Pepe Reina’s head, before Bendtner smashed it home.
The flukey goal, but not necessarily against the run of play, echoed Liverpool’s bad luck inflicted at this very stadium in 2009 when Darren Bent’s winner against the Reds deflected in off a wayward beach ball on the pitch. The ghost of the beach ball, anyone?
The late introductions of Gerrard, Downing and Andy Carroll did little to ignite any sense of urgency from Dalglish’s side.
Dalglish was disappointed with the result, bemoaning Liverpool’s bad luck.
He said, “I think it was a frustrating afternoon for everyone. It was a high tempo game and was always going to be a bit of fortune that won it.
“We reacted well when we went behind, but sometimes you just don’t get the bounce of the ball. I think we played as well as them.
“There wasn’t much in it at all, we tried to get something out of it but we were playing a team that’s on a good run. Sometimes you get the luck, sometimes you don’t.
“We’ll move onto the next game and it would be nice to see some good fortune.”
The Reds are ten points off fourth placed Arsenal.
Sunderland: Mignolet, Bardsley, Bridge, Turner, O’Shea (C), Larsson, McClean, Colback, Gardner, Campbell (Vaughan, 75), Bendtner (Wickham, 84).
Subs Not Used: Kyrgiakos, Kilgallon, Meyler, Elmohamady, Gordon.
Booked: McClean (42).
Liverpool: Reina (C), Kelly, Enrique, Skrtel, Coates, Henderson (Downing, 80), Spearing, Adam (Carroll, 69), Kuyt, Bellamy (Gerrard, 69), Suarez.
Subs: Rodriguez, Carragher, Flanagan, Doni.
Booked: Skrtel (81).
Referee: Mr A Taylor
Assistant: Mr A Newbold
Assistant: Mr G Turner
Fourth Official: Mr A Bates
Video: Nicklas Bendtner vs Liverpool