The Mariners posted their first ACL victory with a former Socceroo providing the killer blow with two first-half goals
The veteran scored two goals in eight minutes after the Mariners fell behind following a 22nd -minute goal to Tsukasa Shiotani after a defensive error from playmaker Kim Seung-Yong.
The result means the Mariners could finish the evening in second spot in group F.
With two chances inside the first five minutes to Sanfrecce it looked glum for Mariners fans but a 14th minute cross-come-shot from Nick Fitzgerald, which admittedly did lack venom, was at the end of a promising attacking move.
Sanfrecce exerted their dominance, but it was an unlikely strike from just inside the half by Yojiro Takahagi that nearly lobbed Mariners goalkeeper Liam Reddy before the former Sydney FC man was able to parry the ball away which lead to the first goal of the match.
From the ensuing corner Kim attempted to flick away the header but misjudged the flight of the ball and his headed air swing allowed defender Shiotani to open the scoring for Hajime Moriyasu's side.
Following the goal the Japanese side paid a fitting tribute to the victims of the tsunami which struck the country in 2011 laying on the ground to form the shape of '3 11' (indicating the date of the tragedy) with one sole player (Takahagi - who lost his grandmother as a result of the tsunami) praying towards the touchline.
Kim turned provider after that howling error when he slid through a pass from the left for former Socceroo Sterjovski to level the scores.
Eight minutes later Sterjovski unleashed a pile-driver from the right-hand edge of the box to put the Mariners in front.
After 37 minutes Matt Simon suffered a head clash and was bizarrely yellow-carded as he departed the field bleeding. Just before the interval Simon clashed with goal-scorer Shiotani but escaped a further booking.
Simon stayed in the action early in the half as he snapped at a cross which he did well to control from Storm Roux but didn't really trouble Takuto Hayashi in the visitor's goal.
Sanfrecce weren't as dominate to open the second half as they were the first but Takahagi went for glory again near the hour mark but a dipping shot was over the crossbar.
Phil Moss injected Mitchell Duke then Bernie Ibini as the home side continued to do some good work in attack but were largely left defending constant pressure from the J-League champions.
Inside the final 10 minutes Reddy continued to shine, saving a close range strike from 19 year-old Asano Takuma.
A lunging attempt to substitute Yusuke Minagawa in the dying stages missed its intended target as the Mariners defeated a J-League opponent for the first time in the AFC Champions League.