Steven Fletcher had cancelled out Danny Gabbidon's first-half opener but Ian Holloway's side came surging back to claim their first three points of the Premier League season
Dwight Gayle's late penalty had put the Eagles 2-1 up against 10-man Sunderland before Substitute Stuart O'Keefe secured victory with a third goal late on, taking advantage of the room in Sunderland's defence to fire home.
Forward Gayle was brought down by John O'Shea, who was subsequently dismissed, in the 78th minute and converted from the spot for his first Palace goal.
However, Steven Fletcher looked to have earned Sunderland a point with a second-half header that cancelled out Danny Gabbidon's early goal.
The Scotland international, who has spent the last five months on the sidelines with an ankle injury, rose to meet a Jack Colback cross and head past Julian Speroni. But Ian Holloway's side came roaring back to claim their first win of the league season, meaning that the Black Cats are now winless in three matches.
|VIEW FROM SELHURST PARK
|By Tom Doyle
Crystal Palace got their first points of the season with a thrilling 3-1 victory over 10-man Sunderland. Danny Gabbidon opened the scoring for the Eagles after deflecting the ball in from a corner and Ian Holloway's side dominated proceedings from then on. The hosts looked to have paid for their profligacy in front of goal when Steven Fletcher clinically nodded home for Paolo Di Canio's side, however. But John O'Shea was sent off for felling Dwight Gayle and the striker scored from the resultant penalty, while Stuart O'Keefe curled home a glorious effort to send Palace fans into ecstasy.
A hamstring injury ruled Jozy Altidore out while Stephane Sessegnon and Craig Gardner were also left out by the Italian. Connor Wickham replaced Altidore, with Ji Dong-Won and David Vaughan also coming in.
The hosts got off to the perfect start after breaking the deadlock in just the ninth minute. Jose Campana delivered a corner into a congested penalty area, where Kagisho Dikgacoi challenged for the ball at the back post and Gabbidon got the faintest of flicks to send the ball past Keiren Westwood.
And Holloway's side then dominated much of the opening period but failed to add to their lead going into the break, with Jason Puncheon and Mile Jedinak posing a real threat to Westwood's goal.
But Fletcher made his long-awaited return from injury as a half-time replacement for Ji for the away side - and the Scot immediately gave the visitors more of a presence in attack.
It took the 26-year-old 19 minutes to make an impact as he levelled with a well-taken header from Colback's cross.
The striker evaded the attentions of Jedinak to head home from an unmarked position inside the penalty area – his ninth goal away from home for Sunderland.
With 12 minutes to play, however, O'Shea gave Palace a lifeline as he brought down Gayle inside the penalty area - the Republic of Ireland international lunging for the ball but catching the striker.
O'Shea was sent off by referee Lee Probert and Gayle made no mistake from the spot, his penalty squirming under Westwood for his first goal in the top flight.
And O'Keefe added a third in stoppage time, the 22-year-old curling his shot past Westwood from the edge of the penalty area to cap an important - and memorable - triumph for Palace.