PETER Odemwingie got Albion's home campaign off to a perfect start by crowning a brilliant debut with a fine late winner.
The 6ft striker only arrived in England late on Thursday night before training with his new team-mates for the first time yesterday morning.
But Odemwingie's last-minute arrival paid immediate dividends as his clinical 81st-minute finish sealed the Baggies' first Barclays Premier League points of the new season.
Albion fully deserved their maximum haul as they produced a much-improved performance from their opening-day defeat at champions Chelsea.
The defensive frailties that saw them ship six at Stamford Bridge seven days ago seemed a distant memory as they recorded their first clean sheet of the campaign.
Odemwingie, who only competed his move from Lokomotiv Moscow yesterday, was handed an immediate full debut, replacing Roman Bednar in the lone striker role.
Jonas Olsson also came in for Pablo Ibanez as Roberto Di Matteo opted for a more attack-minded 4-1-4-1 formation.
However, the Baggies' other new signing, Somen Tchoyi, had to settle for a watching brief from the rear of the dugout as he is short of match sharpness.
Albion were without Ishmael Miller (thigh) while Sunderland boss Steve Bruce was minus the services of suspended duo Lee Cattermole and Michael Turner plus the injured John Mensah, Craig Gordon, David Meyler, George McCartney and Andy Reid.
Both teams sized themselves up during a cagey opening to the game - until Chris Brunt scythed open the Black Cats defence with a sublime seventh-minute throughball.
Odemwingie raced clear but his hopes of bagging a dream early debut goal were undone by his poor finish. With only Simon Mignolet to beat, the Nigeria international dragged his shot wide of the left-hand post.
Albion were now very much on the front foot and James Morrison volleyed just wide of the far post from 18 yards after latching onto Paulo Da Silva's poor clearance.
Sunderland recorded their first effort at goal on 14 when the tigerish Youssouf Mulumbu fouled Fraizer Campbell on the edge of the box.
'2005 Great Escape' hero Kieran Richardson, who had been given a warm pre-kick-off welcome by the home fans, curled the set-piece two yards wide of Scott Carson's right-hand post.
Brilliant individual play by Morrison down the right on 21, when he left both Steed Malbranque and Richardson for dead, set up the hosts' next dangerous moment.
The Scotland international whipped in a terrific centre but the over-stretching Brunt inadvertently flicked the ball away from Jerome Thomas, who was in a much better position to head at goal.
Sunderland threatened again in the 25th minute when Albion found themselves exposed to a counter-attack. However, Olsson's long legs came to the rescue when he lunged in to divert Christian Riveros' 15-yard strike away from goal from Ahmed Al-Muhammadi's pull-back.
But Albion were impressing on their top-flight return and went close again in the 28th minute when Marek Cech fizzed a fierce 20-yard shot across the face of goal.
The Baggies were at it again on 32 when Morrison's wayward shot turned into a through-pass for Thomas. The winger controlled the ball just in front of the byline, only to run it out of play as he went round Mignolet.
It was all Albion now and Brunt was mightily unlucky to see a 15-yard overhead kick fly just over from Cech's centre, which had been flicked on by Riveros.
The final goalmouth incident of the half arrived in the last minute when Darren Bent just failed to control Malbranque's exquisite chipped ball in the box, which would have left him with only Carson to beat.
Albion made an enforced change at half-time as Giles Barnes came on for the injured Thomas.
Bent failed to make the most of a decent chance four minutes after the re-start when he headed Jordan Henderson's free-kick well wide from ten yards.
Albion were soon back on the attack and Titus Bramble denied Morrison a clear sight of goal with a brilliant last-ditch challenge after the former Middlesbrough man had exchanged a neat one-two with Brunt.
With Barnes proving a real livewire down the left, the Baggies kept Sunderland pegged back and they won a free-kick 25-yards out on 54 - but Dorrans' curler sailed a yard over.
Moments later, Sunderland won a set-piece of their own from a similar distance and Richardson saw a terrific effort drop just over the bar.
The game descended into a scrappy affair, with both teams constantly conceding possession.
However, it was Albion who compiled the next meaningful move and Mignolet had to show a safe pair of hands to clutch Brunt's downward header from Barnes' deep centre.
Mignolet was then called into action twice in quick succession, first parrying Dorrans' fierce free-kick from an acute angle and then palming the ball off Olsson's head from another delivery by the Scotland international.
However, Carson had to produce a truly world-class save on 76 to tip over at full stretch Richardson's 25-yard missile.
Sunderland then played a short corner and Carson again was called into action when he clutched Nedum Onuoha's downward header from sub Bolo Zenden's centre.
But Albion weathered the pressure and surged ahead with nine minutes to go.
Morrison dissected the Sunderland centre-halves with a terrific throughball and Odemwingie took one touch before poking the ball past Mignolet from 15 yards.
The new striker fully deserved his goal after running himself into the ground, effort that was not lost on the home hordes.
Brunt almost added a second two minutes from time when he beat Henderson before rattling the Black Cats' bar from fully 30 yards with a left-foot rocket.
But Albion weren't to be denied.
They comfortably dealt with Sunderland's brief spell of late pressure to get up and running in the Premier League.
ALBION (4-1-4-1): S Carson; Jara, Tamas, Olsson, Cech; Mulumbu (Shorey 86); Brunt, Morrison, Dorrans (Reid 82), Thomas (Barnes HT); Odemwingie. Subs not used: Myhill (gk), Ibanez, Bednar, Cox.
SUNDERLAND (4-4-2): Mignolet; Onuoha, Da Silva, Bramble, Richardson; Al Mulhammadi (Welbeck 66), Malbranque (Zenden 66), Henderson, Riveros (Waghorn 85); Campbell, Bent. Subs not used: T Carson (gk), Bardsley, Angeleri, Colback.
GOALS: ALBION - Odemwingie (81).
BOOKINGS: ALBION - Brunt (foul 18), Olsson (foul 36), Reid (foul 89). SUNDERLAND - Da Silva (foul 80), Bramble (83).
REFEREE: K Friend (Leicestershire).
ALBION STARMAN: Chris Brunt.