Substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko's cool second-half strike was enough to see off Sunderland and send Tottenham up to third spot in the Premier League table.
Rafael van der Vaart and Sandro wasted chances as Spurs's early dominance went unrewarded in an absorbing encounter.
The Black Cats responded and Sebastian Larsson and David Vaughan both tested home keeper Brad Friedel.
But Pavlyuchenko hit a deserved winner low into the far corner from a wonderful Van der Vaart pass.
Luka Modric then offered a late contender for miss of the year when he somehow shot over with the goal gaping.
But his glaring error did not matter as Tottenham closed out their sixth successive home victory with relative ease.
The win was all the more impressive given the home side's injury problems.
Already without attacking duo Jermain Defoe and Gareth Bale, they also lost Bale's fellow flying winger Aaron Lennon to a hamstring strain after 30 minutes.
And although they continued to threaten and look dangerous, Lennon's departure and Bale's absence meant Spurs were deprived of their most potent attacking option.
Modric and Van der Vaart provided their usual class and creativity but Harry Redknapp's team were deprived of their main cutting edge and blistering pace in wide positions.
By the time Lennon was replaced by Pavlyuchenko, Spurs should probably have been ahead.
Van der Vaart deflected Benoit Assou-Ekotto's driven shot wide when it seemed easier to turn it into the back of the net and then Sandro scuffed his shot badly after being played in by Van der Vaart, as Spurs failed to make the most of several promising positions.
The Black Cats seemed to grow in confidence following Lennon's exit and had the better of the latter stages of the first period.
Kieran Richardson tested keeper Friedel with a low, long range-strike and then, moments later, narrowly failed to get on the end of the best move of the half.
Stephane Sessegnon set Larsson free down the right and the Swede's cross was just behind Richardson as he steamed in towards goal.
Larsson then tested Brad Friedel with a firmly struck 25-yard free-kick, as the game really began to spark into life.
TOTTENHAM'S HOME RUN
Liverpool W4-0 (Sep 18)
Arsenal W2-1 (Oct 2)
QPR W3-1 (Oct 30)
Villa W2-0 (Nov 21)
Bolton W3-0 (Dec 3)
Sunderland W1-0 (Dec 18)
Wales international Vaughan, who was involved in a fascinating midfield tussle with the ever-impressive Scott Parker, then worked the American keeper again with a shot having charged forward from the halfway line.
And moments later, Jack Colback was crowded out when through on goal.
But seconds after Colback failed to get a shot away Spurs broke the deadlock when Pavlyuchenko, who had looked a little off the pace, provided a fine low finish across keeper Keiren Westwood from a sublime reverse pass from Van der Vaart.
The Russian's calm finish settled Tottenham's nerves and they should have added a second in the final 30 minutes.
Modric fluffed a staggeringly easy chance to double the lead when he shot over rather than into an unguarded net from 12 yards, after Westwood saved Emmanuel Adebayor's initial chipped effort.
Pavlyuchenko also dithered and failed to get a shot away and also shot wide, while Adebayor poked an effort straight at Westwood when well placed.
Sunderland substitute Nicklas Bendtner had the visitors' only noteworthy late chance, but blazed wildly off target after a neat one-two with Sessegnon.
The win sees the hosts move two points ahead of fourth-placed Chelsea, with the west Londoners next to visit White Hart Lane on Thursday.
Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill:
"The players put in a big effort so there is a big disappointment all round. It was a real valiant effort although when Tottenham got their goal their confidence came back and they could have put the game beyond us.
"It's a tough business and we were playing against a very good side but I never thought we were out of the game.
"You would say they had a number of chances after the goal but up until then it was touch and go.
"I thought the effort was great and when we had an opportunity to try to play, the players tried to do that.
"While it was very, very tight we always had a chance but they took their chance. It's fine margins."
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The referee blows his whistle to end the game.90:00 +3:36
The ball is swung over by Sebastian Larsson, fantastic save by Brad Friedel.90:00 +2:41
Craig Gardner produces a cross, Brad Friedel makes a brilliant save.90:00 +2:22
Centre by Sebastian Larsson, Kyle Walker makes a clearance.90:00 +1:45
A cross is delivered by James McClean, clearance by William Gallas.90:00 +0:15
Danny Rose fouled by David Vaughan, the ref awards a free kick. Benoit Assou-Ekotto takes the free kick.89:31
James McClean produces a cross, clearance by William Gallas.88:21 Substitution
Substitution (Tottenham) makes a substitution, with Danny Rose coming on for Rafael Van der Vaart.88:01
Nicklas Bendtner has an effort at goal from deep inside the area missing to the left of the goal.87:57
Sebastian Larsson crosses the ball.86:31
The assistant referee signals for offside against Emmanuel Adebayor. Indirect free kick taken by Titus Bramble.85:18
Roman Pavlyuchenko produces a right-footed shot from just outside the penalty box that misses to the left of the goal.84:53
Emmanuel Adebayor takes a shot. Save by Keiren Westwood.81:02
Outswinging corner taken left-footed by Rafael Van der Vaart, Titus Bramble makes a clearance.81:02 Substitution
Substitution Raniere Sandro goes off and Jake Livermore comes on.80:04
Foul by Titus Bramble on Rafael Van der Vaart, free kick awarded. Shot on goal comes in from Rafael Van der Vaart from the free kick.79:37
The ball is crossed by John O'Shea, save by Brad Friedel.78:37
A cross is delivered by Benoit Assou-Ekotto.77:47
Craig Gardner concedes a free kick for a foul on Luka Modric. Rafael Van der Vaart restarts play with the free kick.77:24
Benoit Assou-Ekotto produces a cross.
Centre by Kyle Walker.75:37
Sebastian Larsson produces a cross, clearance made by Scott Parker.75:04
James McClean produces a cross, William Gallas makes a clearance.74:30 Substitution
Substitution Jack Colback goes off and Craig Gardner comes on.74:16
James McClean has an effort at goal from outside the penalty area which goes wide right of the goal.73:59
Benoit Assou-Ekotto takes a shot. Blocked by Titus Bramble.73:36
Nicklas Bendtner takes a shot. Save by Brad Friedel.73:20
The ball is delivered by Benoit Assou-Ekotto, clearance made by Jack Colback.72:20
Corner from left by-line taken by Rafael Van der Vaart.72:04
Kyle Walker takes a shot. David Vaughan gets a block in.71:51
Roman Pavlyuchenko takes a shot. Titus Bramble gets a block in.71:09
Emmanuel Adebayor fouled by Jack Colback, the ref awards a free kick. William Gallas takes the free kick.70:42
Rafael Van der Vaart takes a shot. Comfortable save by Keiren Westwood.69:28
The ball is swung over by Benoit Assou-Ekotto, clearance by John O'Shea.68:30
The referee blows for offside against Sebastian Larsson. Brad Friedel restarts play with the free kick.68:01 Substitution
Substitution Phillip Bardsley goes off and James McClean comes on.67:36
Luka Modric produces a right-footed shot from inside the area that clears the crossbar.67:22
Emmanuel Adebayor takes a shot. Save by Keiren Westwood.65:57
Direct effort from the free kick comes in from Rafael Van der Vaart.65:57 Booking
Booking David Vaughan booked.65:49
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Roman Pavlyuchenko by David Vaughan.63:59
Sebastian Larsson crosses the ball, clearance made by Ledley King.62:24
Sebastian Larsson challenges Luka Modric unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Luka Modric.60:27
Assist by Rafael Van der Vaart.60:27 Goal scored
Goal! - Roman Pavlyuchenko - Tottenham 1 - 0 Sunderland Roman Pavlyuchenko finds the net with a goal from the edge of the penalty box to the bottom left corner of the goal. Tottenham 1-0 Sunderland.58:25
The referee blows for offside against Roman Pavlyuchenko. Keiren Westwood restarts play with the free kick.57:57
Centre by Kyle Walker, Titus Bramble makes a clearance.56:50
Scott Parker sends in a cross.56:26
Short corner taken by Rafael Van der Vaart.55:53
The ball is crossed by Benoit Assou-Ekotto.55:14
Corner taken by Rafael Van der Vaart from the left by-line played to the near post.55:02
Rafael Van der Vaart takes a shot. Wes Brown gets a block in.52:15
Raniere Sandro sends in a cross, clearance by Titus Bramble.51:47
The ball is crossed by Emmanuel Adebayor, clearance by Titus Bramble.49:27
Direct free kick taken by Brad Friedel.49:27 Booking
Booking Kieran Richardson is cautioned by the ref for unsporting behaviour.49:20
Kieran Richardson concedes a free kick for a foul on Luka Modric.48:48
Free kick crossed right-footed by Kieran Richardson, Raniere Sandro manages to make a clearance.48:48 Booking
Booking Benoit Assou-Ekotto receives a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.48:43
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on David Vaughan by Benoit Assou-Ekotto.47:38
Nicklas Bendtner fouled by Kyle Walker, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick crossed right-footed by Sebastian Larsson.46:37
The referee penalises Roman Pavlyuchenko for handball. Free kick taken by Keiren Westwood.46:10
David Vaughan takes a shot. Comfortable save by Brad Friedel.45:01
The game restarts for the second half.45:01 Substitution
Substitution Connor Wickham goes off and Nicklas Bendtner comes on.45:00 +3:51 Half time
Half Time The players leave the pitch at half time.45:00 +2:56
Phillip Bardsley fouled by Kyle Walker, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick crossed right-footed by Sebastian Larsson, Emmanuel Adebayor makes a clearance.44:57
Close range effort by Roman Pavlyuchenko misses to the right of the goal.44:30
Scott Parker delivers the ball.44:06
The ball is sent over by Sebastian Larsson, save by Brad Friedel.43:14
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Stephane Sessegnon by Scott Parker. Direct free kick taken by Keiren Westwood.40:35
Ledley King concedes a free kick for a foul on Connor Wickham. Kieran Richardson has an effort direct from the free kick.39:33
The official flags Connor Wickham offside. Free kick taken by William Gallas.37:37
William Gallas gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Connor Wickham. Sebastian Larsson has an effort direct from the free kick, save by Brad Friedel.37:08
The referee penalises Rafael Van der Vaart for handball. Direct free kick taken by Keiren Westwood.36:18
Benoit Assou-Ekotto delivers the ball.34:08
Roman Pavlyuchenko is caught offside. Keiren Westwood takes the indirect free kick.33:37
The ball is delivered by Benoit Assou-Ekotto, save made by Keiren Westwood.33:12
Sebastian Larsson crosses the ball.30:22
Kieran Richardson takes a shot. Comfortable save by Brad Friedel.26:21 Substitution
Substitution (Tottenham) makes a substitution, with Roman Pavlyuchenko coming on for Aaron Lennon.24:12
Luka Modric takes a outswinging corner from the right by-line played to the near post, clearance by Wes Brown.21:23
The assistant referee signals for offside against Emmanuel Adebayor. Keiren Westwood restarts play with the free kick.20:18
The ball is crossed by Luka Modric.19:34
The referee blows for offside against Connor Wickham. Ledley King takes the indirect free kick.18:03
Centre by John O'Shea, clearance by Ledley King.16:55
The ball is swung over by John O'Shea.15:42
Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Luka Modric played to the near post.13:56
Raniere Sandro produces a right-footed shot from the edge of the area and misses to the left of the goal.11:08
Effort on goal by Stephane Sessegnon from just outside the area goes harmlessly over the target.10:25
The ball is crossed by Aaron Lennon, Benoit Assou-Ekotto takes a shot. Rafael Van der Vaart gets a block in.9:51
Raniere Sandro takes a shot. Kieran Richardson gets a block in.7:42
Free kick awarded for a foul by Connor Wickham on William Gallas. Free kick taken by Brad Friedel.7:08
The assistant referee signals for offside against Emmanuel Adebayor. Indirect free kick taken by Keiren Westwood.4:45
Emmanuel Adebayor is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Free kick taken by Keiren Westwood.2:32
Aaron Lennon is adjudged to have handled the ball. The free kick is swung in right-footed by Sebastian Larsson.0:00
The ref blows the whistle to begin the match.
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