Everton fought back to seal a victory over Sunderland that keeps them in the top four of the Premier League.
Adam Johnson swept home his first goal for Sunderland to give the Black Cats the lead on the stroke of half-time.
But Everton's dominance paid off with two goals in three second-half minutes.
Marouane Fellaini drilled a shot into the bottom corner, before his sublime flick set up Nikica Jelavic to steer home the winner in boss David Moyes' 400th Premier League game.
Sunderland unlucky to lose - O'Neill
It was the sixth time in a row Everton have managed to avoid defeat after conceding the first goal, and extended Moyes's unbeaten run over Sunderland to 18 games.
Despite losing the creativity of Kevin Mirallas to a hamstring injury in the first half, the Toffees bombarded the Sunderland goal throughout the second half and were rewarded with a victory that ended a run of four straight draws.
Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill, whose team are now only three points above the relegation zone, saw his goal-shy side fail to convert three clear-cut chances in the first half, two of which arrived inside the first 10 minutes.
Everton keeper Tim Howard - watched from the stands by United States manager Jurgen Klinsmann - showed off the talents that have made him his country's number one by pulling off a sharp low save to deny Stephane Sessegnon after the Benin international had been played in by Steven Fletcher.
Did you know?
Adam Johnson was only the second player to score a Premier League goal for Sunderland this season, with Steven Fletcher being the other.
Excluding own goals, Johnson's was the first league strike by a Sunderland player since 29 September, ending a run of 444 minutes without a goal from a Black Cats player.
Marouane Fellaini has scored as many goals this season in the league as in his last three campaigns combined (six).
Sessegnon then returned the favour to set up Fletcher, who dragged his low shot across the face of Howard's goal.
Everton responded with a period of sustained pressure, with their brilliant Belgians Mirallas and Fellaini pulling the strings in midfield.
Their best chance came the way of Steven Pienaar, whose shot from the right drew a routine save from Simon Mignolet at his near post.
Sadly for the Blues, Mirallas appeared to tweak a hamstring in threading the ball through to Pienaar, and could play no further part.
Despite Everton's pressure and territorial dominance, Sunderland continued to create the better chances.
Jack Colback wasted a chance from the inside-right channel with a weak shot at Howard.
And, on the stroke of half-time, Jelavic's headed clearance from a corner fell to Gardner, who clipped the ball back over the Everton defence for Johnson to fire past Howard.
Predictably, Everton began the second half on the front foot and came close to taking the lead when John Heitinga's header from a corner was cleared off the line by Johnson.
Everton were fortunate - Moyes
The one-way traffic continued but time after time, full-backs Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman found space on the flanks, only to fail to pick out a blue shirt with their cross.
Sunderland's resistance was finally broken with 15 minutes remaining when substitute Steven Naismith's pass found Fellaini, who turned sharply and shot low from the edge of the box past an unsighted Mignolet.
Three minutes later, Leon Osman fed Fellaini on the edge of the box, and the Belgian's clever flick through John O'Shea's legs set up Jelavic to curl in.
With 10 minutes left, Sunderland fashioned a chance to level, but Carlos Cuellar's close-range shot struck Gardner on the back and deflected to safety.
Everton manager David Moyes:
"We kept knocking on the door, never gave up, trying to score and forcing the issue.
Sunderland made it really difficult for us because they have a great defensive record and are good on counter-attack.
Guy MowbrayBBC Match of the Day commentator
"Everton have done it again. A goal start for the opposition but still David Moyes' team come back to win the game. They have impressed with their relentless attacking football but they keep on doing it the hard way."
"I thought we were unlucky to come in 1-0 down because our play was good but we gave them a few chances. We will have to look at that and try to do a bit better.
"The best teams can attack and are strong in defence. Getting that balance is how you become top team, scoring plenty of goals and not conceding too many. I don't want us to be giving the opposition too many chances."
Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill:
"We could have been three up by half-time. We had three great chances and finally got a goal which we deserved.
"We were under pressure in the second half and they hit us with two goals in about a minute and a half.
"There is great sprit among the players and that was epitomised today. We are playing a team that is going for a Champions League spot and we played brilliantly today and were very unlucky.
"Danny Rose's booking in the last couple of moments of the game beggars belief. It was unbelievable and that was the story of the game. When the referee sees it again he will be embarrassed.
Full Time The referee blows his whistle to end the game.
90:00 +5:01 Booking
Booking Danny Rose booked.
Danny Rose gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Marouane Fellaini. Free kick taken by Leighton Baines.
Indirect free kick taken by Leon Osman.
90:00 +2:58 Booking
Booking David Vaughan goes into the referee's book.
Unfair challenge on Leighton Baines by David Vaughan results in a free kick.
Thomas Hitzlsperger has a shot on goal from outside the box which misses right.
Foul by Stephane Sessegnon on Leighton Baines, free kick awarded. Leighton Baines restarts play with the free kick.
The ball is swung over by Danny Rose, save by Tim Howard.
Substitution Connor Wickham comes on in place of Jack Colback.
Substitution Thomas Hitzlsperger on for Nikica Jelavic.
Steven Naismith gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Danny Rose. Free kick taken by Simon Mignolet.
Substitution (Sunderland) makes a substitution, with David Vaughan coming on for Adam Johnson.
Carlos Cuellar takes a shot.
Louis Saha fouled by Johnny Heitinga, the ref awards a free kick. Sebastian Larsson takes the direct free kick.
Effort from the edge of the box by Apostolos Vellios goes wide of the left-hand post.
Marouane Fellaini provided the assist for the goal.
78:02 Goal scored
Goal! - Nikica Jelavic - Everton 2 - 1 Sunderland A goal is scored by Nikica Jelavic from deep inside the penalty box to the bottom right corner of the goal. Everton 2-1 Sunderland.
The ball is sent over by Steven Naismith, clearance made by Danny Rose.
Louis Saha is caught offside. Johnny Heitinga restarts play with the free kick.
Assist by Leon Osman.
76:00 Goal scored
Goal! - Marouane Fellaini - Everton 1 - 1 Sunderland Marouane Fellaini finds the back of the net with a goal from just inside the area to the bottom left corner of the goal. Everton 1-1 Sunderland.
Seamus Coleman delivers the ball, Apostolos Vellios takes a shot. Save made by Simon Mignolet.
Substitution Phil Neville leaves the field to be replaced by Apostolos Vellios.
Louis Saha is ruled offside. Phil Neville restarts play with the free kick.
Nikica Jelavic challenges Danny Rose unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Simon Mignolet.
Phil Neville sends in a cross, clearance made by John O'Shea.
Leighton Baines crosses the ball in from the free kick, John O'Shea manages to make a clearance.
Substitution Louis Saha replaces Steven Fletcher.
Booking Craig Gardner goes into the referee's book for unsporting behaviour.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Leighton Baines by Craig Gardner.
Leighton Baines produces a cross, John O'Shea manages to make a clearance.
Phil Jagielka fouled by James McClean, the ref awards a free kick. Phil Jagielka takes the free kick.
Phil Neville concedes a free kick for a foul on James McClean. Sebastian Larsson takes the free kick.
The ball is swung over by Leighton Baines, Craig Gardner gets a block in. Johnny Heitinga takes a outswinging corner from the left by-line to the near post, Craig Gardner manages to make a clearance.
The ball is delivered by Steven Pienaar, Simon Mignolet makes a save.
Seamus Coleman concedes a free kick for a foul on Danny Rose. Free kick taken by Simon Mignolet.
Seamus Coleman fouled by Danny Rose, the ref awards a free kick. Indirect free kick taken by Seamus Coleman.
Booking Johnny Heitinga goes into the book for unsporting behaviour.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Stephane Sessegnon by Johnny Heitinga. Craig Gardner takes the free kick.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Craig Gardner on Steven Pienaar. Leighton Baines crosses the ball, Headed effort from deep inside the area by Johnny Heitinga misses to the right of the target.
Effort from the edge of the box by Leon Osman goes wide of the right-hand upright.
Corner taken right-footed by Steven Pienaar to the near post, Johnny Heitinga takes a shot. Adam Johnson manages to make a clearance.
Johnny Heitinga takes a shot. Carlos Cuellar gets a block in.
Corner taken short by Leighton Baines.
Marouane Fellaini sends in a cross, blocked by John O'Shea.
Steven Pienaar produces a cross. Marouane Fellaini is caught offside. Simon Mignolet restarts play with the free kick.
The second half kicks off.
45:00 +1:41 Half time
Half Time The ref blows to end the first period.
Craig Gardner provided the assist for the goal.
45:00 +0:43 Goal scored
Goal! - Adam Johnson - Everton 0 - 1 Sunderland Adam Johnson grabs a goal from inside the penalty box high into the middle of the goal. Everton 0-1 Sunderland.
Sebastian Larsson takes a inswinging corner from the left by-line to the near post, clearance by Nikica Jelavic.
Stephane Sessegnon takes a shot. Phil Neville gets a block in. The ball is sent over by James McClean, Steven Naismith gets a block in.
Phil Neville takes a shot. Simon Mignolet makes a save. Foul by Seamus Coleman on James McClean, free kick awarded. Indirect free kick taken by Simon Mignolet.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Steven Fletcher on Seamus Coleman. Phil Jagielka takes the free kick.
Leighton Baines sends in a cross, Marouane Fellaini takes a shot. Carlos Cuellar gets a block in. Outswinging corner taken by Leighton Baines from the left by-line, free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Simon Mignolet by Marouane Fellaini. Free kick taken by Simon Mignolet.
Jack Colback takes a shot. Save made by Tim Howard.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Phil Jagielka by Stephane Sessegnon. Free kick taken by Phil Jagielka.
Free kick awarded for a foul by John O'Shea on Nikica Jelavic. Free kick taken by Leighton Baines.
Free kick awarded for a foul by James McClean on Seamus Coleman. Free kick taken by Leighton Baines, Shot from deep inside the area by Nikica Jelavic goes over the bar.
Centre by Steven Pienaar, save made by Simon Mignolet. Corner taken left-footed by Leighton Baines, Steven Fletcher makes a clearance.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Danny Rose by Nikica Jelavic. Direct free kick taken by Simon Mignolet.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Steven Naismith on Danny Rose. Indirect free kick taken by Simon Mignolet.
Substitution Kevin Mirallas goes off and Steven Naismith comes on.
Steven Pienaar takes a shot. Save made by Simon Mignolet.
Centre by James McClean.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Stephane Sessegnon by Phil Neville. Direct free kick taken by Sebastian Larsson.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Marouane Fellaini by James McClean. The free kick is delivered left-footed by Leighton Baines from right wing.
The referee gives a free kick against Sebastian Larsson for handball. Phil Jagielka restarts play with the free kick.
Unfair challenge on Simon Mignolet by Johnny Heitinga results in a free kick. Simon Mignolet restarts play with the free kick.
Nikica Jelavic takes a shot. Carlos Cuellar gets a block in. Kevin Mirallas decides to take the corner short.
Craig Gardner crosses the ball, clearance by Leon Osman.
The ball is crossed by James McClean.
Kevin Mirallas takes a shot. Blocked by James McClean.
Seamus Coleman fouled by James McClean, the ref awards a free kick. Leighton Baines delivers the ball from the free kick left-footed from right wing, clearance made by Carlos Cuellar.
Danny Rose produces a cross, Johnny Heitinga manages to make a clearance.
Kevin Mirallas takes a shot. Blocked by John O'Shea.
Shot by Steven Fletcher from deep inside the penalty area misses to the right of the target.
The ball is delivered by James McClean.
The ball is delivered by James McClean, Tim Howard makes a save.
Stephane Sessegnon takes a shot. Save made by Tim Howard. Sebastian Larsson takes the inswinging corner, Nikica Jelavic manages to make a clearance.
Danny Rose fouled by Kevin Mirallas, the ref awards a free kick. Simon Mignolet restarts play with the free kick.
Kevin Mirallas concedes a free kick for a foul on Danny Rose. Danny Rose takes the indirect free kick.
Craig Gardner gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Marouane Fellaini. Free kick crossed by Leighton Baines, clearance by Adam Johnson.
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