A Nicklas Bendtner goal condemned Liverpool to their eight loss of the season in a drab encounter at the Stadium of Light.
Fraizer Campbell’s shot rebounded off the post and hit Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina on the head and on-loan Sunderland striker Bendtner reacted the quickest ahead of the Liverpool defence to score from close range.
Liverpool had the better of the possession during the first half but they struggled to create any clear cut opportunities with Charlie Adam’s free-kick which was tipped over the bar by Sunderland keeper Mignolet late in the first half which was the only chance of note for the Reds.
After Sunderland’s goal in the 56th minute, Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish brought on club captain Steven Gerrard and Andy Carroll but neither could contribute an equaliser to Liverpool’s frustration.
Sunderland defended deep in the last couple of minutes but they held on and they are now only two points behind Liverpool who remain seventh in the Premier League table.
Sunderland: Mignolet, Bardsley, O’Shea, Turner, Bridge, Larsson, Colback, Gardner, McClean, Bendtner (Wickham 83), Campbell (Vaughan 75)
Liverpool: Reina, Kelly, Skrtel, Coates, Jose Enrique, Kuyt, Henderson (Downing 79), Adam (Carroll 69), Spearing, Bellamy (Gerrard 69), Suarez.