The Cottagers drafted in Damien Duff, Giorgos Karagounis and Alex Kacaniklic, while the visitors welcomed back skipper Lee Cattermole, with James McClean dropping to the bench.
The opening minutes saw the hosts enjoy the better of the possession without being able to forge a clear opening and Sunderland were handed a massive boost just past the half-hour mark.
Home skipper Brede Hangeland dived in two-footed on Black Cats counterpart Cattermole and was shown a straight red card by referee Lee Probert.
However, it was the hosts who had the better of the play up to the break despite being a man short, with leading scorer Dimitar Berbatov causing problems for the visitors' defence.
The second half was a much brighter affair than the first, with the visitors taking the lead six minutes in when Adam Johnson's superb crossfield ball released Steven Fletcher, who finished calmly beyond the advancing Mark Schwarzer.
Fulham found an equaliser just past the hour mark as Duff squared from the left for sub Mladen Petric to net from close range with practically his first touch of the ball.
However, the Black Cats were back in front a couple of minutes later as Johnson swung over a corner from the left and Carlos Cuellar rose highest to head home inside the unguarded far post.
Stephane Sessegnon then wrapped up the victory for the visitors 20 minutes from time as he curled home a superb effort from 25 yards out which left Schwarzer clutching at thin air.