The Toffees were once again forced to come from behind for the sixth consecutive Premier League game after Adam Johnson gave his side the lead just before the break.
Until then, the first half had been an open affair. David Moyes' side bossed the possession and territory, but the visitors were guilty of squandering the game's best chances before eventually going in front.
Here's each of Moyes' men rated for yesterday's contributions:
Tim Howard: 7/10
Playing in front of his national coach, Howard was helpless to prevent Sunderland's opener and acted smartly to deny Stephane Sessegnon and Jack Colback with both well placed to score.
The American also took a number of late crosses off the heads of attackers to help his side close out the victory.
Seamus Coleman: 6/10
A strange afternoon for Coleman, who was combative in the tackle and eager going forward but made a couple of key defensive mistakes that presented Sunderland with some inviting openings.
Going forward the Irishman contributes significantly, but he will quickly need to eradicate what is beginning to look like a routine defensive blip if he hopes to permanently win the right-back jersey.
Leighton Baines: 7/10
Everton's most consistent player was typically aggressive going forward, constantly troubling Sunderland's right-hand side. A few times he hit the first man with his delivery, but he also played in a couple of world-class crosses that really should have resulted in more.
Despite his constant commitment to attack, he also never gave Johnson enough time to be effective in Sunderland's attacking third, expertly suppressing his input.
Phil Jagielka: 8/10
Jagielka has been Everton's leading defender over the first quarter of the season, enjoying his best run of form since 2009.
Once again he lead and organised the back four well, putting his body on the line late in the game with another outstanding block. He made eight key clearances, double as many as any of his teammates and took over captaincy of the team with Neville withdrawn.
Johnny Heitinga: 7/10
Possibly Heitinga's best display this season, he generally seemed assured at the back, making five of his side's 10 interceptions, demonstrating how well he reads the game.
At the other end of the field, he also had three shots and was desperately unlucky to see one header cleared off the line, but should have done much better with another.
Phil Neville: 6/10
Again, he did not provide enough substance for his side in the heart of midfield. Neville passed efficiently but struggled to condense the space Sunderland enjoyed in front of the defence and failed to help his back four suppress Sessegnon.
Neville is in danger of spending time on the bench once Darron Gibson returns, unless Coleman's errors see him usurp the youngster at right-back.
Leon Osman: 8/10
Another high-class performance from England's newest recruit. He passed 84 times, with 90-percent accuracy—23 more times than any other player. He also laid the ball off to Fellaini to assist Everton's first goal and won possession in midfield more than anyone else on his team.
Drops a mark for switching off at the back post for Sunderland's first, and a couple of times he let runners go off the ball, such as Jack Colback in the first half.
However, he atoned for his errors, pulling his side's strings from midfield with others struggling.
Kevin Mirallas: 7/10
For the second home game in a row, a sprightly start from Mirallas has ended prematurely due to injury.
Before his hamstring gave out, the Belgian had looked like the Toffees' most likely creator, constantly marauding forward, causing Sunderland problems in whichever zone he appeared. His absence was certainly felt.
Steven Pienaar: 5/10
Another frustrating game from Pienaar, who is suffering a lean spell at the moment. Too often he tried to force the play and look for an overly adventurous ball with simpler options open.
The South African was also guilty of disjointing too many attacks, losing possession more than anyone else on his side.
Marouane Fellaini: 9/10
Once again Fellaini was a colossus for his side, calmly slotting the equaliser before deftly flicking the ball on to Jelavic to net the winner.
Deployed in a number of roles, the Belgian ensured that his influence was felt all over the pitch, and he was especially productive once Apostolos Vellios entered the game in the second half, causing him to drop back deeper.
As has been said before and will be repeated again this season, he proved the difference.
Nikica Jelavic: 7/10
Without a goal since September, Jelavic seemed to be feeling the pressure at times, appearing uncharacteristically rushed when play through in front of goal.
This temporary lack of potency only seemed to intensify his work rate, as he never stopped moving, and in the crucial moment, provided a trademark, clinical, one-touch finish—hopefully a goal to reignite his goalscoring form.
Steven Naismith: 6/10
It's been a tough settling-in period for Naismith, who has been in and out of the team since the start of the season. Coming on for an injured Mirallas, he endured a difficult afternoon, often stuck on the periphery of proceedings.
Nothing quite came off for him on the pitch, but if Mirallas is to be sidelined for a few games with injury, it at least gives Naismith a chance to sufficiently acclimatise with a decent run in the team.
Apostolos Vellios: 5/10
First Premier League appearance of the season for Vellios, who came on for the last 20 minutes.
He made little impact other than a couple of nice touches, but his presence lightened Jelavic's load and gave Everton an extra body in advanced areas.
Thomas Hitzlsperger: n/a
Hitzlsperger was brought for his debut in the dying embers of the game to help see the result out. He had little time to make an impression but did his job.
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All statistics via EPL Index