The first period proved to be a nicely wrapped gift for the mutual with Jonathan Grounds forcing an excellent point-blank save from Robin Ruiter before Sam Gallagher gave them the lead in the 16th minute, Sunderland pulled it back five minutes later through Lewis Grabban but were under pressure for the rest of the half with decent chances for Gallagher and Jota.
Sunderland looked to be back on track in the second period with David Stockdale producing an excellent save from George Honeyman further heightened by Gallagher's dismissal, the home side pushed and pushed for a winner with Honeyman producing a great opportunity but a Christmas miracle of consecutive home wins at The Stadium of Light proved a stretch too far.
Slowly setting the tone
Festivities were as high as ever at The Stadium of Light before kick-off which will have only been heightened by last Saturday's win over Fulham which ended their 364-day run of misery on Wearside, Chris Coleman stated after that win that there would be "even bigger games" to come hinting at the visit of Steve Cotterill's men.
The players seemed to take the Welshman's words on board as they made a good start to proceedings, but it was the visitors who like their hosts were struggling at the bottom of the Championship table that had the first sniff on goal. Craig Gardner received a warranting applause from his former home fans as he whipped in the corner, he found the head of Grounds at the near post but Ruiter went one better producing an excellent point-blank save to keep the scores level.
Coleman's side went close minutes later as Honeyman to spray the ball out to his right into the feet of Donald Love, the Scotsman's cross was short into the near post where Grabban was waiting but he was inches away from getting a touch on it.
Poor defending rears its ugly head again
Last week's victory could come to be a poignant moment in Sunderland's season, but despite all the good that Coleman has brought to Wearside old habits certainly die hard and the side's defensive issues which have haunted much of their season showed again in the 16th minute.
It was poor from The Black Cats as Honeyman lost possession in the middle as Gallagher made the run behind the defence, he still had a lot to do under the pressure of John O'Shea who managed to block his initial effort but Gallagher made no mistake at the second time of asking as he rolled it into an empty net.
Swiftly getting back in the contest
After falling behind once again it would have been expected that the home side would have rolled over like Sunderland fans have seen way too many times this season, but they showed resilience and managed to get themselves back in it five minutes later.
The move began with Grabban as his corner managed to find Love who was running into the area, his sliced effort looked to be going well wide but Grabban was alive to situation to turn it home at the far post.
They could have quite easily turned the tie around moments later as Lynden Gooch rolled it into Honeyman but the midfielder's ball was just behind James Vaughan, the striker did well to take it under control and the hit the shot on the swivel but it was just wide of Stockdale's right-hand post.
Causing some issues
Despite failing to hold onto their lead Cotterill's side continued to look dangerous especially through the Spaniard Jota, with the 26-year-old having a hand in two excellent chances for The Blues.
He did well in the 33rd minute to the by-line and play back across where Gallagher was waiting to strike, he went for the spectacular on this occasion with the back flick but Ruiter did well to block and then collect Maxime Colin's follow-up header.
The Spaniard then decided to have an effort of his own four minutes before the break, he received the ball on the edge of the area with his sweet effort parried by Ruiter but the Dutchman was quick to smother the loose ball at the second time of asking.
The hero becomes the villan
It was better from the home side as they came out for the second period but it was still the visitors who were having the better of the play on the pitch, but were only a palm away from taking the lead just before the hour mark.
It was good play from Gooch as he found the run of Honeyman out wide who whipped the ball in, the midfielder's cross looked to be just creeeping under the crossbar if not for Stockdale who did well to push it onto the woodwork and to safety.
It seemed only a win would suffice for the Sunderland supporters as they looked to continue their long-awaited ascending of the table, and were handed a golden opportunity in the way of a man advantage.
Sunderland looked to quickly break up field through Vaughan who managed to get the pass off before being clattered by Gallagher, the hero soon turned the villain as his late challenge was right under the nose of referee Oliver Langford who had no hesitations of giving him his marching orders.
Looking to make the extra man count
Sunderland were rallied by the noise from inside The Stadium of Light, and arguably their best chance to snatch all three points arose 19 minutes before the end. Grabban looked to turn provider as he threaded an excellent ball into the feet of Honeyman who managed to beat the offside trap, the midfielder had all the time in the world to set himself but still managed to curl the effort wide of Stockdale's far post.
Coleman look to punish Birmingham's disadvantage as he once again brought on both Joel Asoro and Josh Maja in the hope that lightning could strike twice, Maja looked to make an instant impact as he nipped in on Gardner's poor clearance and the former Sunderland man brought the youngster down. It was Matthews who stood over the dangerous looking set-piece but the low effort was straight into the chest of Stockdale.