Jermain Defoe put the visitors ahead on the South Coast, with Jose Fonte also receiving a red card for a foul on Fabio Borini just moments before.
Despite the late heartbreak, Sam Allardyce’s remain one point above the drop zone and there were plenty of positives to take from the performance - including a number of good individuals.
Mannone commanding behind an organised defence
Vito Mannone (8): The Italian was superb all afternoon and made a fantastic save in the first half to deny Dusan Tadic. Mannone showed a safe pair of hands throughout, commanding his area in an all round very good performance.
DeAndre Yedlin (6): It was a steady performance from Yedlin. He showed great ability going forward with the ball and impressed defensively too.
Lamine Kone (7): Sunderland look a much more solid side since the Ivorian’s arrival in January. Kone dominated in the air and turned provider in the closing stages as he played the ball into Defoe, who made no mistake firing home.
Younes Kaboul (8): The former Tottenham Hotspur man took the place of John O’Shea after the captain hobbled off in midweek. It was a very impressive display as he, like Kone, dealt with everything Southampton threw at him.
Patrick van Aanholt (6): Van Aanholt didn’t get as much joy in an attacking sense in comparison to previous games, albeit the hosts did dominate possession. The Dutchman did deliver a superb cross to Jack Rodwell though, who could only fire wide.
Hard work in midfield
Yann M’Vila (7): Put in a good shift in the middle of the park and looked comfortable in possession. M’Vila teed up Borini with a well executed pass too, although he was denied by Fraser Forster.
Jan Kirchhoff (7): The holding midfielder has a key part to play in Sunderland’s survival battle. The German international was very composed on the ball and showed a range of good passing. The Wearsiders need a good footballing brain in the centre of midfield and Kirchhoff offers just that.
Jack Rodwell (7): The 24-year-old also impressed, although he had a glorious opportunity and couldn’t convert. Rodwell seems to get himself in the right places at the right time so it is imperative he starts to tuck away the chances he gets.
Lively attack, but not much end product
Fabio Borini (8): Scored his third goal of the season in midweek and could have had another two here. Borini showed great technique with a well controlled volley and was unlucky not to score. The player also played a part in giving Sunderland an extra man advantage after he showed a great first touch before being brought down by Fonte.
Dame N’Doye (6): The big forward played a terrific ball into Borini in the first half but that was as good as it got for N’Doye. He scored his first goal for the club against Crystal Palace on Tuesday, but unfortunately didn’t look a threat in front of goal here.
Wahbi Khazri (5): Hit the bar from a free kick, but the majority of set-pieces from Khazri were poor as he struggled to beat the first man. The Tunisian also picked up a silly yellow card and was taken off for Sebastian Larsson.
Defoe the big impact sub
Jermain Defoe (8): Defoe replaced N’Doye on the hour mark as Allardyce went in search of a vital three points. The change proved to be the right one as Defoe converted his one and only chance five minutes from time.
Sebastian Larsson (6): Given too little time to make an impact. Larsson’s return from injury comes at a good time for Sunderland as they need everyone fit heading into the relegation run-in.
John O’Shea (6): Came on too late to be given any sort of mark.