ALBION threw away an early two-goal lead but were grateful in the end for gaining a fifth point of the season after being forced onto the back foot for parts of the second half.
The Baggies made a dream start on Wearside, with goals from James Morrison and Shane Long - his third of the campaign - firing them two-up inside five minutes.
The Black Cats were rocking but managed to regroup and restored parity in quick-fire fashion as Nicklas Bendtner and Ahmed Elmohamady netted in the 24th and 27th minutes respectively.
Sunderland looked the side most likely to score after the break - but Albion saw the job out.
Hodgson made one change from the goalless draw with Fulham, as Morrison came in for Jerome Thomas. Gabriel Tamas returned from a three-match suspension and replaced Craig Dawson on the bench.
Morrison could not have wished for a more effective return as Albion made the kind of start they could have barely dreamed of.
With their first foray towards the Mackems box in the fourth minute, skipper Chris Brunt curled in a delightful free-kick and Morrison rose to plant a terrific 12-yard header into the far bottom corner, giving Simon Mignolet no chance.
Incredibly, just 67 seconds later, it was 2-0.
Peter Odemwingie dissected the home defence with a fine through-ball which Long beat Michael Turner to before calmly stroking low into the bottom left-hand corner.
Sunderland, who, like Albion, had won one of their opening six games, had made a nervous start but they went close on 14 when Stephane Sessegnon seized on Bendtner's lay-off and fired just wide from 18 yards.
However, Albion immediately broke upfield and Mignolet had to make a vital save to keep out Morrison's 30-yard pile-driver.
Two minutes later, Graham Dorrans worked a cheeky corner to the unmarked Brunt on the edge of the box but the Northern Ireland international curled wide of the far post.
Sunderland were struggling to find any rhythm and Ben Foster had an easy task of clutching Turner's looping header just under his bar from Sebastian Larsson's centre.
On 21, the Black Cats thought they had pulled a goal back when Larsson swept home Sessegnon's cross-cum-shot - but an offside flag nipped their goal joy in the bud.
However, just three minutes later, it WAS 2-1.
Sessegnon played in Larsson down the right and his pull-back was swept home by Bendtner from 15 yards, with the aid of a deflection off the unlucky Gareth McAuley.
Albion's goals had come in quick succession - and so did Sunderland's.
On 27, it was all square when Bendtner made enough room to curl in a cross from the left and Elmohamady ghosted in front of his marker to head powerfully home. Foster managed to get a hand to the effort but could not be faulted for failing to keep the ball out.
The game's momentum had now swung Sunderland's way and Foster had to be alert to beat Bendtner to Elmohamady's centre.
Albion still looked dangerous on the break but Foster was the keeper next called into action, this time easily clutching the increasingly influential Bendtner's 25-yard grass-cutter low to his right.
The Baggies won a corner in the 37th minute and from Brunt's delivery, McAuley headed a yard wide at the back stick.
Both defences continued to look shaky and Sessegnon's purposeful run fashioned a shooting chance for Bendtner two minutes later, but the on-loan Arsenal man shot weakly at Foster from an acute angle.
Sunderland fashioned one final chance in stoppage time, with Foster producing a fine reflex save low to his left after Craig Gardner had been allowed to turn and shoot from Larsson's pass.
Just two minutes after the restart, Nicky Shorey fed Dorrans inside the box and his low cross would have presented the unmarked Odemwingie with a tap-in had Turner not intercepted.
A minute later, Sunderland won a free-kick at the other end and Wes Brown should have done much better when, after peeling off Jonas Olsson, he directed his header from Larsson's centre into the ground and wide.
The game then descended into a scrappy affair and the next effort at goal did not come until the 58th minute, when Gardner fired well over from 25 yards.
But the hosts went much closer a minute later. Sessegnon ran at the Albion defence before feeding Elmohamady in the box and the right midfielder's angled 12-yard drive was superbly turned wide by the excellent Foster.
Steve Bruce's men were now very much on top and Olsson had to produce a vital block to prevent Bendtner getting on the end of the impressive Sessegnon's centre.
Albion dug in and, on 69, Brunt fed Odemwingie with a weighted ball over the top, only for the striker's first touch to let him down, allowing Mignolet to gather at his feet.
Brunt tried his luck himself a minute later when he turned on Dorrans' pass and shot wide from 30 yards.
After the goal glut in the first half, the contest petered out in the final stages with neither keeper seriously tested.
SUNDERLAND (4-4-2): Mignolet; O'Shea, Turner, Brown, Richardson; Elmohamady (Ji 82), Gardner (Meyler 90+1), Cattermole (c) (Colback 71), Larsson; Sessegnon, Bendtner. Subs not used: Westwood (gk), McClean, Cook, Laing.
ALBION (4-4-2): Foster; Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Shorey; Brunt (c), Mulumbu (Scharner 74), Dorrans (Thomas 88), Morrison; Long, Odemwingie. Subs not used: Fulop (gk), Tamas, Tchoyi, Jones, Cox.
GOALS: SUNDERLAND - Bendtner (24), Elmohamady (27). ALBION - Morrison (4), Long (5).
BOOKINGS: SUNDERLAND - Cattermole (foul 36).
REFEREE: L Mason (Bolton).
ATTENDANCE: 34,815 (899 Albion supporters)
ALBION STARMAN: Shane Long.