The visitors took the lead in first-half stoppage time, as summer signing Adam Johnson scored his first goal for the club.
The home side reacted well, piling the pressure on the Black Cats defense throughout the second half. And with 14 minutes to play, Marouane Fellaini produced two moments of magic to hand his side victory.
The Belgian scored his sixth goal of the season for the Toffees, before turning provider for Nikica Jelavic just seconds later.There was action from the off at Goodison Park, as no sooner had Jelavic had a soft penalty shout turned down at one end, Stephane Sessegnon raced in behind Seamus Coleman and tested Tim Howard at the other.
Moments later, Sessegnon set Steven Fletcher away with a defense-splitting pass, but the visitors’ top scorer fired narrowly wide of the target.
The hosts then began to find their rhythm, and after impressively completing over 30 passes around the edge of the Sunderland penalty area, Jelavic and Mirallas combined well to create a chance for the latter, but James McClean did well to intercept.
The Toffees continued to threaten the Black Cats’ goal, as Simon Mignolet was tested three times in quick succession - first by Jelavic and then twice by Steven Pienaar - but the Belgian was equal to both efforts and kept the scores level.
But the first goal went to the visitors, as a sloppy clearance from a Sunderland corner found Carlos Cuellar on the edge of the penalty area. The Spaniard lofted the ball back into the Everton penalty area towards Johnson, who managed to evade Leon Osman and slot the ball past an on-rushing Howard.
Everton started the second half brightly, as Gary Naismith and John Heitinga both went close after two fantastic deliveries from Leighton Baines on the left.
In spite of concerted pressure from the hosts, the Sunderland duo of Jack Colback and Sebastien Larsson put in a dogged display in midfield, with a number of crucial, last-ditch tackles to shield their defense.
But with 14 minutes to play, top-scorer Fellaini found himself with some space on the edge of the visitors’ penalty area. Cuellar was slow to close the Belgian down, allowing him to turn and neatly slot the ball past Mignolet.
Seconds later, Fellaini received the ball on the edge of the box again, but this time performed a delightful one-touch flick through the legs of John O’Shea to find Jelavic, who couldn’t miss from six yards out.