A succession of poor transfer windows has been the chief factor in Sunderland's annual troubles at the wrong end of the Premier League table.
But Sam Allardyce's first chance to improve the Sunderland squad in the market has immediately prompted an improvement in the Black Cats' fortunes after maiden goals for January buys Wahbi Khazri and Lamine Kone secured a huge 2-1 victory over Manchester United.
The Stadium of Light success was thoroughly deserved for Sam Allardyce's side, who were the better side other than a 20-minute spell at the end of the first half.
Khazri got Sunderland off to a dream start early on when his inswinging free-kick found the bottom corner, but United pulled level just before the half-time after a lovely finish from Anthony Martial on the rebound.
Sunderland were on top after the break, but were denied by several outstanding saves from United keeper David De Gea.
But with eight minutes to go, Kone headed home from a Khazri corner to secure Sunderland's first home Premier League win over United since 1997.
Sunderland got off to a dream start in the third minute when Khazri opened his account for the Black Cats.
The Tunisian international's inswinging free-kick from the left bounced through the legs of Jermain Defoe before ghosting through into the far corner of the net off the post.
Defoe came close to doubling Sunderland's advantage in the 11th minute after an almighty scramble in the United box, following excellent work from Patrick van Aanholt in winning the ball down the left flank.
Surrounded by two United defenders, Defoe just couldn't get the ball out of his feet to get a shot away and the visitors managed to divert it behind.
Sunderland were then forced into an early change after Jan Kirchhoff limped off with a hamstring injury and was replaced by Jack Rodwell.
The visitors looked fragile at the back throughout the opening stages and they didn't produce an effort at the other end until the half-hour mark when Juan Mata shot straight at Vito Mannone from 18 yards.
But six minutes before the interval, United drew level after a very cute finish from Anthony Martial.
Mannone had done excellently to tip away Mata's low shot from the edge of the area, but Martial was onto the rebound in an instant and produced a delicate chip into the net from a narrow angle on the right-hand by-line.
Sunderland ended their first half on the back foot, but they put United under fresh pressure after the break, with a superb last-gasp challenge from Daley Blind preventing Defore regaining the lead.
Patrick van Aanholt's low cross from the left was flicked goalwards by Defoe's instep, but Blind had diligently patrolled in behind the striker to divert the ball behind with a sliding challenge.
Sunderland had another big chance in the 61st minute when Lee Cattermole picked out Dame N'Doye with an excellent through-ball.
N'Doye, darting inside on the diagonal, got in behind Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, but with only David De Gea to beat from the right of goal, his right-footed shot towards the far corner was blocked by the outstretched leg of the United keeper.
De Gea then denied Lamine Kone, who collected the ball from a deep free-kick on the left-hand side of the area and hit a high shot towards the near post which was tipped behind by the Spaniard.
United finally began to worry the Sunderland goal in the last 15 minutes of the half - substitute Memphis shooting straight at Mannone when he was in an excellent position to the left of goal, 12 yards out.
But it was Sunderland who regained the advantage in the 82nd minute when Kone thumped home Khazi's right-wing corner with a powerful header which De Gea just couldn't keep out.
Mannone was called into action with three minutes to go when Memphis twisted and turned down the left-hand side of the area and shot towards the far corner, but the Sunderland keeper was able to push it away.
Memphis went close again moments later when Martial knocked Rooney's left-wing cross back into the goalmouth for the Dutch winger, but his improvised shot was blocked behind by John O'Shea.
Sunderland: Mannone, Yedlin, O’Shea, Kone, van Aanholt, Kirchhoff (Rodwell 15), Cattermole (Toivonen 85), M’Vila, Khazri, N’Doye, Defoe (Borini 71). Subs not used: Brown, Matthews, Pickford, Honeyman. Booked: Yedlin (38)
Manchester United: De Gea, Darmian (Love 38), Smalling, Blind, Borthwick-Jackson, Schneiderlin (Keane 86), Carrick, Lingard (Memphis 62), Mata, Martial, Rooney. Subs not used: Romero, Weir, Pereira, Herrera. Booked: Rooney (46), Mata (58), Carrick (59)