Ryan Mason fired Tottenham to their first Barclays Premier League victory of the season as Sunderland were made to wait for theirs.
The midfielder stabbed home an 82nd-minute winner from substitute Erik Lamela's through-ball to snatch a 1-0 win the Londoners scarcely deserved after being second-best for much of what had gone before.
Jermain Defoe and Jack Rodwell both hit the woodwork for the Black Cats on a day when they were much improved, but were unable to make the pressure tell in front of a crowd of 40,303 at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland boss Dick Advocaat fielded Defoe as a central striker in a fluid formation which was at times headed by a four-man frontline with Ola Toivonen, Jeremain Lens and Fabio Borini, making a second debut for the club, providing the support.
Defoe had already seen a long-range effort blocked by Eric Dier when he warmed keeper Hugo Lloris' hands from distance with a dipping 15th-minute effort, but the Frenchman was beaten 11 minutes later.
Lens' beautifully-weighted through-ball allowed Defoe to race clear of Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld before sliding a right-foot shot past Lloris, only to see his effort come back off the post.
The former England striker thumped a left-foot drive into the keeper's midriff six minutes before the break after spinning Alderweireld, with replays suggesting his claims for a penalty, which were waved away by referee Craig Pawson, might have had some merit, and it took an injury-time block from Dier to deny Lens.
For their part, Spurs were largely disjointed, although striker Harry Kane gradually warmed into a game in which he was isolated for long periods.
The visitors might themselves have been awarded a first-minute penalty after both Borini and Patrick van Aanholt nibbled at Kyle Walker inside the box, although Kane's well-struck 16th-minute long-range drive was as close as they came until added time at the end of the half.
It was then that Dele Alli and Nacer Chadli combined for the latter to pick out Walker beyond the far post with Gomez sliding in to cut out his square ball to debutant Son Heung-min as he prepared to fire home.
Lens extended Lloris after collecting Defoe's pass and stepping inside Walker, but Kane should have broken the deadlock with 67 minutes gone, but scuffed his volley horribly wide at the far post.
With substitute Andros Townsend starting to make the visitors tick, it took an vital block by Younes Kaboul to keep out Chadli's 76th-minute piledriver after he had stepped inside substitute Lee Cattermole's sliding challenge.
But it was Mason who finally settled a tight encounter, playing the ball in to Kane and then heading into box as the striker laid it off to Lamela before chipping the ball over the advancing Costel Pantilimon from his pass.
Sunderland were desperately unfortunate not to rescue a point with five minutes remaining when substitute Rodwell rattled the crossbar with Lloris beaten, and there was no way back for Advocaat's men.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"At last a win but not well deserved . I feel sorry for Sunderland" – Tottenham fan Lord Sugar is pleased that Spurs are up and running but spared a thought for winless Sunderland.
Costel Pantilimon: 6/10
Billy Jones: 6
Patrick van Aanholt: 6
Younes Kaboul: 8
John O'Shea (capt): 7
Yann M'Vila: 7
Jordi Gomez (Cattermole, 73 mins): 6
Ola Toivonen (Rodwell, 80 mins): 7
Jeremain Lens: 7
Jermain Defoe: 7
Fabio Borini (Watmore, 73 mins): 7
Lee Cattermole: 6
Duncan Watmore: 6
Jack Rodwell: 6
Hugo Lloris (capt.): 6
Kyle Walker: 7
Ben Davies: 6
Jan Vertonghen: 6
Toby Alderweireld: 7
Eric Dier: 7
Ryan Mason: 7
Dele Alli (Lamela, 67 mins): 8
Son Heung-min (Townsend 61 mins): 6
Nacer Chadli: 6
Harry Kane: 6
Andros Townsend: 7
Erik Lamela: 7
Dele Alli was at the centre of most of Tottenham's best work, although his side too often failed to capitalise on his efforts.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Mason's expert finish provided the perfect conclusion to a neat move he had started himself.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Sunderland boss Dick Advocaat will have been delighted with with the way his fluid frontline worked as Toivonen provided steel and brawn to allow Lens and Borini to feed Defoe, although Maurico Pochettino's decision to introduce Townsend changed the game.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Sunderland paid a harsh price for lacking just a little more precision in their finishing with the woodwork denying both Defoe and Rodwell.
WHO'S UP NEXT
Bournemouth v Sunderland (Premier League, September 19)
Tottenham v FK Qarabag (Europa League, September 17)
Tottenham defender Dier hailed the application of his side as their perseverance paid off with a late goal.
"It was really important," he told Sky Sports 1 after the win.
"We have been unlucky and made mistakes in our past games but it's great to get a clean sheet and a win today.
"It looked like (it was going to be a draw) and when it got to the last 15 minutes I was worried it was going that way but we stuck at it and kept going and didn't change the way we played. We played the same way throughout and we got rewarded for it.
"We knew going into this game we have now got a lot of home games in a row so we can really get a win and roll onto the home games where we can hopefully pick up a lot of points."
Center-back Vertonghen thought Spurs' positive approach paid off at the Stadium of Light.
He said: "We approached this game in a positive way and I think we were the better team and we deserved to win.
"When we scored we knew we had to be very focused and they had a very big chance so this time we were lucky."
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