A strong second-half display by Manchester United proved too much for the Black Cats, who finished on the wrong end of a 5-2 scoreline.
The first half was an attractive end to end game, with Sunderland opening well when they could have been in front.
Sonny Best drew a super save from United keeper Alex Fojticek, Lee Connelly hit the near post and Jacob Young saw his header cleared from the line before United broke away to take the lead on 19 minutes.
Nishan Burkhart made a fast run down the right and passed to Josh Bouki, who had pulled away from his markers, to finish past keeper Michael Wood
Sunderland hit back to pull level when a surging run by Owen Gamble ended with Jack Diamond crossing from the right for Ben Kimpioka to stab the ball over the line from close range.
But the visitors re-took the lead 10 minutes before the break with a 20-yard free-kick by Andy Barlow which seemed to go under Woud’s dive.
Two goals shortly after the interval saw United take over and establish a winning lead.
Burkhart hit a low shot past the keeper from 18 yards, then, just three minutes later, Ethan Hamilton made a long diagonal run left to right before hitting another low strike across and past keeper Woud.
United’s final goal was made by their two subs. First, Tom Sang hit a magnificent 60-yard pass for Zak Dearnley to control and crack home beyond the keeper.
To their credit, the Wearsiders never gave up and, five minutes before the end, central defender Young scored with a looping header to the side of a static keeper.
It gave a more realistic reflection to the final scoreline of a very entertaining match.
Coach Elliott Dickman, in his last game with the Under-18s before taking charge of the U23s, said: “The two early second-half goals killed the game off after we had a good first period that could have established an interval lead, but the second half was very disappointing.”
Sunderland are four points adrift at the foot of the table, while United’s 12th unbeaten game in a row consolidated third place.
Sunderland: Woud, Gamble, McAughtrie, Allan, Storey, Young, Best (Taylor 45), Hackett (Krusnel 65), Connelly, Diamond (Hickey 69), Kimpioka.
Manchester Utd: Fojticek, Tanner, Spratt, Barrett, O’Connor, Whelan (Sang 64), Boonen (Ercolani 70), Hamilton, Burkhart (Dearnley 64), Barlow, Bohui