The hosts were reduced to 10 men as early as the third minute when Wes Brown was dismissed for a professional foul on Shane Long just outside the area.
Long and new strike partner Nikica Jelavic duly punished Sunderland by each scoring a header to bring their opponents back down to earth with a bump following their 3-0 derby success over Newcastle United last week.
It was a sweet return to the Stadium of Light for Bruce, who was sacked as Sunderland manager in November 2011, but he insisted there was still a lot of work for his side to do if they are to avoid relegation back to the Championship.
"We're four points off the bottom three but we are 10th," he said. "It's quite a remarkable season. Usually at this time one or two are adrift.
"I keep saying you have to win 10 games and we've won seven now so it's still all to play for."
Bruce also reserved special praise for midfielder Jake Livermore, who is on a season-long loan from Tottenham, with the former Wigan Athletic manager expressing his wish to keep the 24-year-old at the KC Stadium beyond the end of the campaign.
"I thought he was outstanding," he added.
"He's been a terrific loan signing for us. We'll do our utmost to make it permanent if we can but obviously we've got to stay in this division first."