Charlie Austin struck in first half injury-time to give Queens Park Rangers their first win back in the Barclays Premier League.
Austin, who missed the 4-0 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur because of injury, replaced Loic Remy in the side and marked his return by scoring from a corner after Leroy Fer knocked down the ball.
Remy was left out of the squad, with Rangers manager Harry Redknapp suggesting the striker would leave before the transfer window closed on Monday night.
Although Sunderland initially improved after the break, in the end they did not have enough and struggled to carve out clear-cut chances.
Austin almost made an immediate impact on his comeback when he came close from a corner. Junior Hoilett delivered an inviting flag-kick and Austin saw his powerful header cleared off the line by Connor Wickham in the fourth minute.
Sunderland looked just as much of an attacking threat as their hosts and six minutes later, Steven Fletcher's poked effort forced Robert Green into a desperate save, following Adam Johnson's precise through-ball.
Fer nearly broke the deadlock on the half-hour mark in spectacular fashion - the former Norwich City man jinking away from Lee Cattermole before striking a ferocious effort from 35 yards that came crashing back off the crossbar.
But, having survived that scare, Sunderland could not hold on until the break.
In first-half stoppage time Fer knocked down a deep corner at the back post and Austin drove the ball into the top corner.
Sunderland started the second half with renewed determination and almost scored a leveller soon after the restart.
Patrick van Aanholt's 54th minute cross was not dealt with by the QPR defence and Santiago Vergini's left-footed strike forced Green into a smart save to his right.
Poyet's side began to enjoy more possession but they struggled to capitalise as they lacked a cutting edge in the final third.
They did mount some late pressure - with United States of America striker Jozy Altidore introduced from the bench in a bid to bolster their attacking options but it was QPR who really should have wrapped up the win with four minutes left.
Substitute Armand Traore raced through on goal and went one-on-one with Vito Mannone, only for the wing-back to drag his right-footed effort wide of the post.
Queens Park Rangers manager Harry Redknapp: "When you're sitting there with no points after two games you need to get a win and I'm delighted with the way we played. We started way behind everyone else. We brought players in very late and they didn't have time to settle and that showed. Even today I was worried. But I thought we came on an awful lot today. It is not about systems, it is about players. And we worked hard today and if you do that you can win football matches.
"We are looking around [for new players]. We have bought some good players but we have some more irons in the fire. Lassana (Diarra) has signed and I'm delighted to have him. I had him at Portsmouth and he is a terrific player."
Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet: "Overall I was quite happy with the performance. We had a clear chance to put the ball in the net. But there was practically nothing between the teams and for much of the game we were in control. There were two or three situations where we didn't make the right decision. It was the cutting edge in the latter third.
"Corners and set-plays can make the difference. It is not a nice way to lose the game but hopefully we will learn. We are working to bring players in but until it is concrete I prefer not to comment."
|14 Sep 2014||v Man Utd (A)|
|20 Sep 2014||v Stoke (H)|
|27 Sep 2014||v Southampton (A)|
|05 Oct 2014||v West Ham (A)|
|19 Oct 2014||v Liverpool (H)|
|27 Oct 2014||v Aston Villa (H)|