A goal from Gael Kakuta and a brace from Simon Davies secure a fine win for Fulham at the Stadium of Light.
Ahead of kick-off Manager Mark Hughes had talked of a top 10 finish - this impressive defeat of Sunderland did much to underline those claims.
A first Fulham goal from Gael Kakuta was the bright note of a scrappy first-half, while two goals from Simon Davies capped an enterprising second period and secured a long-awaited away win.
The Whites started the game on the back foot with Sunderland making a lively start to the match, with Chris Baird on hand to make two clever headed interventions to clear the ball to safety, while Mark Schwarzer made a brave claim from a Steed Malbranque cross.
In fact, the former Fulham favourite impressed early on, beating Steve Sidwell and Philippe Senderos on the edge of the box and forcing a low save from Schwarzer and then fashioning a chance for his make-shift strike partner Stephane Sessegnon. Like he was at the Cottage, the Frenchman is a clear favourite with the home fans.
Half chances also fell for Sessegnon and Jordan Henderson but the Whites held on for what was an uncomfortable 20 minutes or so.
Having slowed the hosts’ initial enthusiasm, Fulham began to settle, with Eidur Gudjohnsen firing over from Bobby Zamora’s clever low pass while Gael Kakuta did well to wriggle free of Ahmed Elmohamady and Henderson before delivering an inviting ball into the box.
But with half an hour gone, it was that man Malbranque that almost broke the deadlock, pulling clear of Senderos and fortunately shooting wide of Schwarzer’s right hand post.
Against the run of play it was Hughes’ side that put themselves in front when Zamora held off the attentions of Michael Turner before slipping the ball into the path of Kakuta who finished coolly with an assured close range finish.
Sunderland hit back immediately, with Schwarzer diving well to meet Lee Cattermole’s prodded effort and Baird making a determined block to deflect Sulley Muntari’s powerful strike.
As the home side finished the half on top, Aaron Hughes made a brilliant clearance from Sessegnon’s teasing run and cross, while Baird did well to deny Muntari another strike at goal.
The second-half opened more positively for the Whites, with Simon Davies taking a clever touch away from Cattermole and driving at goal, a move which saw Zamora cannon a strike off the back of Nedum Onouha.
Sunderland responded with a clever break of their own, with an opportunity falling for Sessegnon – but Schwarzer was one step ahead and diving well to meet his swerving shot from the edge of the box.
At the other end, Zamora flashed an ambitious effort across the hosts’ goal, where Gudjohnsen was inches away from turning the ball home at full stretch.
But Fulham had their second on the hour with Zamora shrugging off Dawson and threading a wonderful pass into the path of the on-running Steve Sidwell. The midfielder looked up from the left by-line and picked outDavies who slammed in a lovely first time finish beyond the sprawling Simon Mignolet.
The Whites soaked up the pressure for a short while after, but in drawing the home side in Fulham broke, with Zamora picking the ball up in the right hand channel and lifting a delicate pass into the feet of Davies.
The Welshman took the ball past Mignolet before knocking in from close range despite the pressure from an anguished Turner and to the joy of the travelling Fulham faithful.
With the home fans emptying the Stadium of Light at an alarming rate, Gudjohnsen went close to furthering their misery with a dipping strike from distance while Jonathan Greening almost found fellow substitute Andrew Johnson with an intelligent pass.
It had been an encouraging week for Fulham, with their first away win of 2011 coming on the back Wednesday’s 3-0 defeat of Bolton. With Mark Hughes’s side on track for a place in the top half of the Barclays Premier League table this was a thoroughly professional display and a job well done.