The Belgium international made his first appearance in two months due to Keiren Westwood falling ill but he acquitted superbly to repeatedly thwart City with a string of saves.
The former Red Devils defender needed to use all his guile and experience to keep a patched-up defence together and frustrate his old club’s arch-rivals.
The Manchester United old boy looked determined to do his former club a favour as he shone in the early exchanges but then limped out of the action with a groin strain.
He only played after passing a late fitness test and it showed as the Swede was a peripheral figure on the right wing, rarely using possession well and only threatening at set-pieces.
At last the Black Cats skipper showed signs that he is maturing with a disciplined performance in the midfield holding role as he produced arguably his best performance in red and white stripes.
The attack-minded midfielder found himself deployed as a makeshift right-back but he looked comfortable in defence and denied City with a goalline clearance.
The former Blackpool playmaker worked hard to deny City space in the midfield trenches as he dug in against technically superior opponents.
The ball-playing midfielder found it tough going at left-back against Johnson and Nasri but refused to throw in the towel despite being given a torrid time early on.
The diminutive Benin international was his normal box of tricks but he lacked support and would have scored had he been more composed after breaking clear, but then laid on Ji's winner.
The Irishman looks an exciting prospect but is still too raw to make his talent count against top-drawer opponents.
The on-loan Arsenal striker's stock continued to fall as he fluffed a glorious early opening while his hold-up play left lots to be desired.
As imposing as ever, he has an aura of invincibility about him which meant Bendtner and Sessegnon choked in one-on-one confrontations with the England No1.
This was his first game in over two months and the one-way traffic meant it was the ideal game for the Serbian to ease his way back into his duties.
The England international did not have a lot to do but was nearly caught out early on when Bendtner broke clear.
He looked better as an attacking force than in defence because Sessegnon humiliated him on a couple of occasions when Sunderland broke out of their own half.
Sunderland sat back so deeply that he ended up being a supplementary attacker but failed to convince he could unlock the defence despite plenty of endeavour.
His trademark rampaging runs were his team's best attacking weapon but no one in a City shirt was able to capitalise on his fine work.
The French international failed to give his side the penetration that blanket defending required and was brought off early in the second half.
N. de Jong
The combative Dutchman was not his normal self as he ended up treading on eggshells after being booked early on for a clumsy foul on Lee Cattermole and was substituted at half-time.
They say it is sign that the midfielder is having a good game when you hardly notice him and this was one of those occasions.
The Sunderland-born England winger showed why former Black Cats manager Steve Bruce was so keen to sign him because he was a constant threat down the right.
He clipped the bar with a rasping rising shot in the first half but on several occasions he lacked the killer touch that champions need.
- 24 T. Carson
- 40 L. Laing
The former Leeds defender has not played for Sunderland in 19 months but he made sure that Brown's absence was hardly noticed with a determined display.
- 18 D. Meyler
Ahmed El Mohamady
The Egyptian did his bit with an industrious late cameo.
- 31 R. Noble
The South Korean now has hero status on Wearside, and probably at Old Trafford as well, after scoring a dramatic winner deep into stoppage time.
- C. Pantilimon
He was sent on to give the City attack punch but he failed to deliver a telling blow when he headed a loose ball against the bar late on.
- 15 S. Savić
- 22 G. Clichy
The City talisman did his best to work his magic after coming on as a 55th minute replacement for Nasri but nothing came off.
- 7 J. Milner
The Argentine striker was guilty of a glaring miss after being sent on at half-time.