Controversial goals for home side as Richardson and Gyan strike
Kieran Richardson gave Sunderland an early lead with a thumping effort from close range before John Carew netted an equalizer in scrappy and controversial circumstances following a Rory Delap throw.
Asamoah Gyan restored the advantage just seconds into the second period through his searing pace and killer instinct. But Huth made up for some shocking defending by netting a late equalizer after prodding home from Carew's knockdown and then notched the winner with almost the last touch of the game from another set play.
Both managers made changes after midweek defeats, with Tony Pulis recalling Kenwyne Jones, Matthew Etherington and Delap to the starting XI, while Steve Bruce handed Sulley Muntari his debut with Ghanaian team-mate John Mensah also coming in, replacing for Steed Malbranque and Ahmed Elmohamady respectively.
But despite fielding five defenders, it was the visitors who took the lead within two minutes as some sloppy defending by Robert Huth allowed Richardson to slam home from little more than six yards out.
Stoke had a half chance to equalize moments later as a Delap long throw pelted into the area, but former Mackem Jones could only shank his volley into the traveling supporters behind Craig Gordon's goal.
It almost got worse for Stoke soon after as a Jordan Henderson free-kick glided across the box and was indecisively punched away by Asmir Begovic, while Ryan Shawcross was fortunate that Asamoah Gyan could not quite reach a loose ball left by the Englishman.
That panic at the back had caught on at the front with Huth gifted an excellent chance to equalize from the back post following an Etherington corner, but the German first toe-poked it into an opposition shirt before steadying himself and spectacularly shanking over from a couple of yards out.
Richardson then came close to doubling the lead with a terrific bending effort from distance that looked to be going well away from danger before slicing through the windy air and arrowing narrowly wide of Begovic's goal.
Danny Higginbotham – one of four former Sunderland players in the Stoke starting line-up – almost notched a sensational equalizer with an imaginative acrobatic effort that rattled the side netting.
But a goal was to come for the home side and unsurprisingly it came from a set-piece – their primary source of danger in a game that was becoming increasingly unsophisticated.
A Delap long throw was terribly misread by Titus Bramble, whose header looped into the air with goalkeeper Craig Gordon air-punching and allowing Huth to get a touch towards Carew to prod home from short distance, with more than a hint of offside and with Shawcross leaning into the Scottish stopper.
It was a scrappy goal and a fitting one for a game that, being played amid a gale, bordered on the farce, but Bruce's anger could be forgiven as the goal almost certainly should not have stood for several obvious reasons.
But just seconds into the restart and Sunderland reclaimed the advantage, with Gyan latching onto a punt upfield that split Shawcross and Huth apart before twisting and turning beyond the German and slamming past Begovic.
It was no surprise that Stoke continued to thrash things forward in the air in the second period, with Sunderland looking increasingly vulnerable to the elements, yet few decent chances were mustered, and the home side continued to push their luck by hustling and bustling in the area, with referee Lee Probert reluctant to blow.
Pulis made his first substitution of the game by bringing on Jonathan Walters for right-back Andy Wilkinson, and taking the risky option of going with three at the back.
Yet it was Sunderland who came closest to scoring next when Richardson squeezed in a shot from a tight angle, forcing Begovic to react quickly to pip the ball round the post.
Stoke's main man Etherington belatedly got himself involved in the action with a clever swivel and burst of pace down the left that eventually earned a free-kick which led to a corner that John Mensah so nearly put into his own net from an outstanding Pennant delivery.
And from another swinging cross from the former Liverpool man Stoke were able to equalize with Carew nipping ahead of Gordon and getting a touch before Huth nudged it over the line, although again there was controversy as there appeared to be both an offside and a handball in the build up
And Huth sealed a remarkable team and personal comeback by sliding in to touch home another Pennant free-kick in stoppage time.
It was a barnstorming finish to a brutal game, with both sides battling in the air throughout, but Bruce will be fuming with the officials for allowing two controversial goals.
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