The Black Cats produced a resolute performance in their Italian coach's first match at the Stadium of Light, as Stephane Sessegnon's well-struck drive secured all three points
The Black Cats had gone 17 league games without a win against David Moyes' side, prior to their hard-earned victory this afternoon.
Stephane Sessegnon scored the only goal of the game with a firmly-struck drive from 18 yards seconds before half-time, while Sebastian Larsson came close to beating Tim Howard with free kicks on three occasions.
The Blacks Cats came into the game on the back of a 3-0 annihilation of Newcastle in the Tyne-Wear derby a week ago, while Everton's chances of Champions League qualification were handed a boost by an impressive performance during their 0-0 draw with Arsenal midweek.
The home side controlled the game early on and Everton had the woodwork to thank for keeping the score level in the 11th minute. A wicked free kick from Larsson clipped the top of the crossbar after dipping deliciously as it flew towards Howard's goal.
The Swedish midfielder came close with well-struck free kicks twice more in the first half, the second of which was kept out brilliantly by a clawing save from Howard.
After threatening for 45 minutes Sunderland finally took the lead on the brink of half-time following a poor pass from Leigton Baines, who had been impressive prior to the goal.
The left-back played a wayward ball forward that fell straight to the feet of Larsson. He quickly moved the ball on to Sessegnon, who drove at the heart of the Everton defence before blasting a hard low shot into the bottom left corner of the goal from 18 yards.
Moyes chose to switch things for the second half, as Nikica Jelavic was brought on at the expense of the disappointing Darron Gibson, but it was Sunderland that had the first chance after the break - as Danny Rose sent a swerving shot wide after dispossessing Leon Osman 25 yards from goal.
Everton saw more of the ball as the second half wore on, and it was clear that the visitors were trying to exploit the aerial prowess of Jelavic. Twice the Croatian beat John O'Shea in the air to meet crosses from the left, but on both occasions the striker's attempts were off target.
The visitors threw Steven Naismith and Ross Barkley on for Osman and Victor Anichebe with 15 minutes to play as they searched for a goal.
An equaliser nearly came not from either Naismith or Barkley, but the left boot of Sunderland's Larsson. The midfielder smashed a back pass to Mignolet that the Belgian goalkeeper had no option but to catch with only an empty net behind him. Baines was teed up from the resulting indirect free kick from 12 yards but Sunderland's defence stood firm to block his effort and avert the danger.
The win takes Sunderland further away from the relegation zone to 37 points with four league games left to play, while Everton remain in sixth.