Joel Asoro scored the only goal on his first league start for the Black Cats, who moved level on points with the Tigers, but with an inferior goal difference of 11.
Hull pushed hard for a second-half equaliser, but manager Nigel Adkins said: “We’ve not got the three points we needed and a team close to us in the division has. I was concerned about how poor we were in the first 35 minutes.
“The warm-up was good, the mood in the dressing room was spot on and we went out there focused, but, for me, we didn’t get anywhere near in the duels you need to win and be competitive in in a game of football.
“In the second half we were better and got the ball into the area, but we couldn’t find the goal we needed and it’s a bad loss.”
His opposite number Chris Coleman told Sunderland’s teenage strikers to keep on working hard after Asoro matched his friend Josh Maja with a goal-scoring debut. In December his strike partner Maja marked his own maiden appearance with the winner against Fulham. They are Sunderland’s only home victories since December, 2016.
This time, goalkeeper Robbin Ruiter produced a point-blank save from David Meyler in stoppage-time to ensure the three points.
Sunderland started with an XI that had four academy graduates, but only five league goals between them, but the energy of their teenage strikers gave them a much-needed lift.
The Black Cats gave Sweden Under-21 international Asoro his full Championship debut and it took just 20 minutes to pay off.
Lee Cattermole set a tenacious tone in midfield and when he won the ball, George Honeyman played an excellent pass. Asoro had time to think about his finish and drilled it across Allan McGregor to give his side the lead.
Fraizer Campbell, like Meyler and Seb Larsson a former Stadium of Light player, missed a glorious chance to equalise midway through the second half, putting Evandro’s left-wing cross well wide.
Michael Dawson escaped a second booking when referee Keith Stroud booked Asoro for diving.
Sunderland: Ruiter, Browning, O’Shea, Clarke-Salter, Jones (Matthews 34), Cattermole, Robson, Oviedo, Honeyman, Maja (Gooch 87), Asoro. Unused substitutes: Steele, McManaman, Galloway, McGeady, Love.
Hull City: McGregor, Tomori, Dawson, Hector, Aina, Meyler, Larsson, Toral (Irvine 69), Evandro (Dicko 79), Bowen, Campbell (Keane 76). Unused substitutes: Mazuch, Marshall, Henriksen, Clark.
Referee: K Stroud (Hampshire).