Saido Berahino’s third Premier League goal of the season ensured Sam Allardyce lost his first game as Sunderland boss 1-0 at West Brom.
A tight contest was anticipated at The Hawthorns as both Allardyce and Albion boss Tony Pulis like to keep things tight at the back.
And so it proved as England striker Berahino scored the only goal of the game on 54 minutes, when he outmuscled giant goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon and tapped the ball into the net from close range.
Pantilimon, who stands at 6ft 8ins, spilled a cross from Chris Brunt under pressure from Berahino – and was booked by referee Martin Atkinson for his following complaints over the goal being given.
Sunderland put the pressure on late on but Albion held on for all three points and their first home league win of the campaign.
The hosts struggled to get going in the early stages of the game, and Craig Dawson was booked for an early foul on Jordi Gomez.
Former Sunderland forward Stephane Sessegnon had a point to prove and looked lively, firing an 18-yard shot wide of the upright.
That chance came shortly after Boaz Myhill had made a flying save to tip Billy Jones’ diving header over the crossbar, while James McClean also went close when he poked a shot wide.
Albion grew in confidence as the half wore on and Dawson sent a 30-yard shot over the crossbar before Salomon Rondon wasted a good headed chance.
After the break, Albion had a handball appeal against Younes Kaboul turned down on 49 minutes – but they were celebrating five minutes later.
Brunt whipped in a left-wing cross which Pantilimon spilled in a battle with Berahino, who reacted quickly to turn home the ball from a yard out.
Allardyce reacted by sending on Adam Johnson, Jermain Defoe and Danny Graham, while Pulis sent on Rickie Lambert and Craig Gardner.
Berahino had a header easily saved by Pantilimon on 73 and Sunderland tested Myhill on 78, when he fumbled Yann M’Vila’s 25-yard drive only to see the ball hacked clear.
The hosts then sat on their lead and held on to secure three precious points for their third league win of the season, leaving Sunderland firmly in the relegation mire.