Regular strike duo Marcus Stewart and Stephen Elliott had been frustrated by a solid defensive display from Stoke.
But Mick McCarthy opted to replace Elliott with Bridges and the move paid off eight minutes later when he headed in Liam Lawrence's cross.
Stoke's best chance fell to Chris Greenacre late in the first half but his left-foot effort was easily saved.
Sunderland boss Mick McCarthy
"We are all delighted for Michael Bridges.
"I'm hoping that will be the first of many and I'm sure he is thinking the same.
"But I thought this was a very good all round performance. We kept the ball well and we had to be patient because Stoke sat back more like an away side.
Stoke: Simonsen, Halls, Duberry, Thomas, Hill (Palmer 89),
Greenacre (Neal 68), Brammer, Clarke, Russell, Asaba,
Noel-Williams. Subs Not Used: de Goey, Henry, Denny.
Sunderland: Myhre, Wright, Breen, McCartney, Caldwell, Arca,
Carter, Whitehead, Lawrence (Lynch 90), Stewart (Brown 60),
Elliott (Bridges 75).
Subs Not Used: Alnwick, Danny Collins.
Goals: Bridges 83.
Ref: U Rennie (S Yorkshire).