Sunderland substitute Anthony Stokes earned his side a priceless victory with a stoppage-time winner against Derby at the Stadium of Light.
Stokes (left) sends the Sunderland fans wild with his injury-time winner
Kenwyne Jones's header was saved by Derby keeper Stephen Bywater but the 19-year-old Stokes reacted quickest to bundle home at the second attempt.
Jones hit the post in the first half shortly after Sunderland keeper Darren Ward saved a Kenny Miller shot.
Defeat for new Derby boss Paul Jewell leaves his side bottom of the table.
The victory for Sunderland will do much to help eradicate the memories of their 7-1 mauling at Everton last week.
But it was a cruel blow to the Rams who started the game without having scored in 10 hours of football.
To lose it like that was really sickening
Derby manager Paul Jewell
It was easy to see why they have struggled to find the net this season despite some neat passing and approach play early on.
While Sunderland's Jones was a menace up front for the home side, Kenny Miller and Steve Howard had little quality to work with and most of Derby's attacks broke down at the edge of the Sunderland penalty area.
Sunderland's direct style was yielding more chances with Danny Higginbotham coming close to scoring in the first minute from a header.
The Black Cats were unfortunate, however, that their best chances fell to recalled veteran striker Andy Cole.
It was the 36-year-old's first game of the season and it showed. He slipped inside the six-yard box when he had time to do better after 17 minutes and then headed wide when unmarked just afterwards.
But there were signs that Cole and Jones were beginning to form an understanding when Jones took on a Cole lay-off to shoot wide.
Ward, who was in the side in place of the dropped Craig Gordon, had little to do in the first half but he made a fantastic save to keep out Kenny Miller as the half drew to a close.
Higginbotham slipped when trying to clear a long ball and when the ball fell to Miller his shot was turned onto the post by the Sunderland keeper.
Moments later Ward missed a catch from a Derby corner but Sunderland captain Dean Whitehead was on hand to clear Steve Howard's shot off the line.
There was still time, however, for Jones to miss the best chance of the half, when he hit the post from the rebound of a Grant Leadbitter shot.
Derby put that scare behind them and Matt Oakley, who was always a calming presence as things began to unravel around him, had a shot deflected wide early in the second period.
Their energy was matched by a growing frustration among the Sunderland supporters who began to demand more from their team.
On the right wing, Carlos Edwards responded and was at the root of most of Sunderland's attacks.
After a fruitless afternoon Cole was replaced by Michael Chopra after 66 minutes but his first contribution was to block a goal-bound Whitehead shot when it looked like the deadlock would finally be broken.
The game descended into a scrappy affair as the half wore on and it looked like neither team had a player with the necessary quality to provide the difference.
But Stokes's winner after three minutes of stoppage time was a saving grace for the Black Cats and a massive blow for Derby who will continue to look for their first away goal of the season.
It is now over 11 and a half hours since they scored at all.
Sunderland manger Roy Keane:
"To score so late in the game was a great bonus for us.
"We have scored a lot of late goals but our priority was to keep a clean sheet because at home we'll always create chances and we got that bit of luck today."
Derby manager Paul Jewell:
"It was never going to be a classical football match but certainly for endeavour and effort, I can't be critical of our lads.
"But that's what happens when you're at the bottom league, you tend to play with a bit of fear the closer you get to the end of the game. I couldn't see them scoring, it looked like it would be 0-0 and to lose it like that was really sickening."
Sunderland: Ward, Halford, McShane, Higginbotham, Collins, Edwards (Stokes 78), Leadbitter (Miller 83), Whitehead, Wallace, Jones, Cole (Chopra 64).
Subs Not Used: Gordon, Harte.
Goals: Stokes 90.
Derby: Bywater, Griffin, Davis, Moore, McEveley, Teale (Leacock 84), Oakley, Pearson, Barnes (Fagan 70), Howard, Miller (Earnshaw 86).
Subs Not Used: Price, Mears.
Ref: Mark Halsey (Lancashire).