Kenwyne Jones celebrated his new contract with the only goal as Sunderland ended a run of four Barclays Premier League games without a win against Fulham.
The Trinidad and Tobago international, who signed a new four-and-a-half-year contract earlier in the day, pounced on the loose ball after Mark Schwarzer had saved Djibril Cisse’s 55th-minute shot to edge a tight encounter.
Schwarzer had earlier denied both men and later pulled off a fine reaction stop to keep out Steed Malbranque’s 63rd-minute effort, but his heroics could not prevent the Londoners from slipping to a second successive league defeat after a sequence of nine without loss.
The win, which came in front of a crowd of 36,539, eased the Black Cats further clearer of the drop zone and set them up perfectly for Sunday’s derby trip to fellow strugglers Newcastle.
Remarkably, it was just Sunderland’s fourth victory on their own pitch this season and, perhaps the 2-1 win over the Magpies in October apart, the most welcome.
The statistics did not augur well before kick-off: The Black Cats’ record at the Stadium of Light has been patchy to say the least, while Fulham had drawn their last four - at Liverpool, Aston Villa, Stoke and Tottenham - 0-0.
But the opening 45 minutes demonstrated that those facts were no quirk of fate.
Sunderland, with Cisse and Jones leading the line, created a handful of half-chances but could not make any of them count.
That was in part due to Schwarzer, who made a decent 28th-minute save from Cisse and a much better one from Jones eight minutes later with Aaron Hughes blocking the Frenchman’s follow-up.
Cisse had earlier blasted a rising shot just wide, but the Australian was not unduly troubled.
But Marton Fulop was even more under-employed at the other end with the Hungarian not having to make a single save of any note before the half-time whistle sounded.
There were a handful of openings with Andy Johnson seeing a 28th-minute shot deflected wide by Danny Collins and Clint Dempsey blasting a 39th-minute effort just wide.
However, there was little on show to warm a crowd which grew increasingly frustrated with the lack of quality on offer as both sides repeatedly squandered possession cheaply.
There was little doubt that Roy Hodgson would have been the happier of the two managers at the break, and it was Ricky Sbragia who faced the bigger task to rally his troops for the second half of a game they really needed to win.
Sunderland re-emerged with greater purpose as the second half got under way, and Schwarzer had to come from his line to punch away an Andy Reid cross after full-back John Pantsil had dived in unnecessarily.
The former Middlesbrough keeper came to his side’s rescue once again with 55 minutes gone, but this time the helping hand he needed was nowhere to be found.
Schwarzer managed to parry Cisse’s snapshot, but neither he nor any of his defenders could get to the rebound before Jones, who side-footed home from close range to the evident delight of the home crowd.
The sense of relief inside the stadium was palpable, although few doubted there was still much hard work to be done, and there would have been a much more relaxed atmosphere among the red-and-white contingent had Schwarzer not smothered Malbranque’s swerving 63rd-minute drive.
But Fulham’s big chance arrived five minutes later when Dempsey headed down Pantsil’s deep cross at the far post only for Simon Davies to lift his shot high over as Fulop came to meet him.
Malbranque could have killed the game off seconds later had Schwarzer not pulled off a fine reaction save at the other end, but the match was far from over.
Pantsil found himself in an advanced position with 10 minutes to go, but he lashed his shot from the corner of the box wildly off target.
Jones might have cemented the victory with a minute remaining when he held off defender Brede Hangeland before getting in a left-foot shot, but again Schwarzer kept him out.