Jan Vertonghen's deflected shot put us into the lead inside three minutes as we returned to Premier League action, but Seb Larsson’s free-kick just after the half-hour mark restored parity.
Harry Kane hit the post in first half stoppage time, but it took us until the 88th minute to find a winner as Christian Eriksen finished off a fast break with a shot that went in off the upright.
Hugo Lloris produced a fine late save to deny Danny Graham, before Vertonghen - with goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon up for a corner at the other end - was denied another goal when his effort on the break was chalked off for off-side.
Spurs (4-2-3-1): Lloris, Walker, Vertonghen, Dier, Rose, Stambouli, Dembele (Townsend 75), Chadli (Paulinho 87), Kane, Eriksen, Soldado (Adebayor 61). Substitutes (not used): Vorm, Davies, Naughton, Capoue.
Sunderland (3-5-2): Pantilimon, Brown, O'Shea, Vergini , Jones, Larsson, Rodwell, Johnson, van Aanholt, Fletcher (Wickham 64), Defoe (Graham 75). Substitutes (not used): Mannone, Gomez, Coates, Giaccherini, Buckley.
Goals: Spurs Vertonghen 3, Eriksen 88; Sunderland – Larsson 31.
Yellows: Spurs – Vertonghen; Sunderland - Rodwell.
Referee: Chris Foy.