The departure of Jose Mourinho just 48 hours before Sunderland's trip to Stamford Bridge sparked an ominous mood among supporters about a reaction from Chelsea's under-performing players.
With new Chelsea caretaker boss Guus Hiddink watching from the stands, the reigning Premier League champions made good on that promise, as they cantered to a first win in four top flight outings.
However, Sunderland gave Chelsea by a helping hand by making it far too comfortable during a first half when their resistance was as feeble as it has been at any point this season.
Chelsea netted twice in the opening 13 minutes through Branislav Ivanovic and Pedro and could easily have added to their advantage before the interval, with Sunderland defensively fragile and unable to establish any midfield platform.
The hosts did extend their advantage early in the second half through a penalty from the impressive Oscar, before Sunderland pulled one back immediately through substitute Fabio Borini's first goal of his second Black Cats spell.
That sparked a vast improvement from the Black Cats, with Borini and Jermain Defoe both going close to pulling another goal back.
But Sunderland were unable to prevent a third successive defeat, as Sam Allardyce's side fell further adrift of safety.
Sunderland sloppily fell behind in the sixth minute when Ivanovic got above Sebastian Coates - passed fit after recovering from illness - to Willian's right wing corner and sent a pinpoint header into the roof of the net.
Coates was again culpable for Chelsea's second in the 13th minute when the Uruguayan failed to cleanly intercept Ivanovic's right wing cross.
The ball fell kindly to Pedro, eight yards out, who cushioned a shot beyond Costel Pantilimon.
Midway through the half, Coates was taken off, as Allardyce made an early substitution for the second week on the spin. Adam Johnson took his place, as Sunderland switched to a 4-5-1.
Sunderland then had Pantilimon to thank for preventing a third after Oscar was able to waltz through the Black Cats defence at almost walking pace, before his shot was parried by the legs of the keeper.
Allardyce's men finally had a sight of goal in the 33rd minute when Duncan Watmore immaculately controlled Yann M'Vila's ball forwards on the edge of the area, yet his follow-up shot was poor - looping harmlessly high and wide.
Chelsea remained in complete control though, Diego Costa heading Pedro's inswinging cross just wide before the break.
It took Chelsea just three minutes of the second half to win a spot-kick after Sunderland were caught on the counter-attack, with Patrick van Aanholt unable to stop Willian, before Pantilimon brought down the Brazilian.
Oscar converted it immaculately, coolly placing it low into the bottom corner with Pantilimon going the wrong way.
But Sunderland almost immediately found a glimmer of hope after a nicely-worked free-kick.
Johnson's ball in was headed back across goal by Younes Kaboul, Thibaut Courtois spilled it and Borini tapped it in from point-blank range.
The goal finally woke Sunderland into life - Borini angling a side-footer a yard wide of the far post from just inside the area after being picked out by Johnson's through-ball.
Defoe spurned a glorious chance to pull another back in the 65th minute when he charged into the area to the left of goal, but slashed his shot into the side netting at the near post.
As the momentum faded though, Chelsea regained the ascendancy - substitute Loic Remy drawing a smart full-length save out of Pantilimon with 10 minutes to go.
There was one last chance for Sunderland in the dying stages when the ball fell to Defoe on the edge of the area, but his deflected shot was pushed away smartly by Courtois.
Chelsea: Courtois, Ivanovic, Terry, Zouma, Azpilicueta, Matic, Fabregas (Mikel 71), Oscar (Ramires 82), Pedro, Willian, Costa (Remy 76). Subs not used: Begovic, Baba, Traore, Cahill. Booked: Matic (88)
Sunderland: Pantilimon, Jones, Kaboul, O'Shea, Coates (Johnson 23), van Aanholt, M'Vila, Rodwell, Toivonen (Borini 46), Watmore (Graham 79), Defoe. Subs not used: Mannone, Gomez, Yedlin, Fletcher. Booked: Pantilimon (48), Rodwell (62), O'Shea (89)