DAVID KITSON'S first league goal for the Club was enough to secure all three points in an entertaining clash at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The former Reading hit-man, who opened his City account during the Carling Cup tie at Leyton Orient on Wednesday, followed that up by clinically firing the ball home right at the end of the first half.
The game could have been put to bed in the second half as chances continued to flow for the hosts, but the one goal was all that was needed as Tony Pulis' side recorded their fourth clean sheet in five games.
As expected, the City boss made plenty of changes from the side which successfully came through Wednesday night's clash in London unscathed. Kitson was in fact the only player to retain his place, as he made his first league start for the Club since January, with James Beattie missing out through injury.
New signings Tuncay and Robert Huth were named amongst the substitutes, and both received rapturous rounds of applause from the City supporters, who evidently were clearly delighted with Pulis' latest additions to the squad.
Once the match did get underway, it was the visitors who posed more of a threat during the early stages. The giant presence of Kenwyne Jones together with the pace of in-form England striker Darren Bent made sure City's backline were kept on their toes, and they answered any questions asked in impeccable fashion.
Firstly, Senegalese international Faye brilliantly denied Bent with a last ditch challenge before Danny Higginbotham flung himself in front of the former Tottenham striker just as he looked set to fire past Thomas Sorensen.
The Potters continued to soak up the pressure and very nearly sneaked into the lead themselves after a quick counter-attacked released Ricardo Fuller down the right flank. However, after dancing his way into the penalty area his ball across the six-yard box was sliced over his own crossbar by Nyron Nosworthy.
The resulting corner led to nothing, but the Potters continued to gather some momentum with a couple of trademark Rory Delap long throw-ins causing havoc inside the Black Cats penalty area. Kitson continued to prove a handful and his willingness to work won City a corner in the 35th minute, which nearly saw Ryan Shawcross head home.
The tireless Lawrence almost capitalised on a poor header by Anton Ferdinand in the 36th minute, but fortunately for the Sunderland defender Craig Gordon was on hand to deny the City winger and spare his team-mates blushes.
Finally, the breakthrough did come eight minutes later, and despite the efforts of Gordon, there was nothing he could do to deny Kitson his second goal in as many matches after he clinically smashed the ball into the back of the net right on the stroke of half time.
The goal really kicked life into the Potters who came out after the interval looking eager to double their advantage. Whelan had an effort deflected just wide of the post barely one minute in, whilst Lawrence went even closer moments later as he fired an audacious half volley beyond Gordon, only for Phil Bardsley to clear the ball off the line.
The Republic of Ireland international again went close in the 51st minute as he headed just wide of the left hand post after Etherington brilliantly picked him out inside the six-yard box.
Bruce responded with a double substitution as he looked to find a way back into the encounter. Andy Reid, who bagged a brace during the Carling Cup victory over Norwich earlier in the week, came on along with Frazier Campbell, with Steed Malbranque and Kieran Richardson making way.
The changes didn't have any immediate influence on the proceedings as it was the hosts who in large continued to dominate. Kitson, who was repaying Pulis' faith in him with a superb performance, cleverly played Fuller through on goal, but his effort flashed inches over the crossbar, before television replays showed Gordon got his fingertips to the ball.
Things became a little heated midway through the half as both Nosworthy and Lorik Cana were cautioned for reckless challenges on Fuller and Etherington, as Sunderland desperately tried to claw their way back into the encounter.
Man-of-the-match Kitson again went close in the 69th minute, before Sorensen superbly saved down to his right to deny Cana, who fired the ball through a crowded penalty area from 25 yards.
Tuncay was handed his first taste of action for the Club in the 83rd minute as he was brought on to replace Fuller. The Turkey captain almost immediately repaid some of the £5 million transfer fee as he won the ball in his own half and then set off on a dazzling run down the pitch before playing it through to Kitson, who clipped the ball across goal, only to see substitute Dean Whitehead fail to connect by a matter of inches.
The visitors pushed for a late leveller, and Pulis responded by introducing Huth to shore up an already solid backline. An additional four minutes were added on by the fourth official, but the Potters held firm to secure a superb victory.