Cisse and Richardson were two of Sunderland's stand-out performers
Sunderland produced an inspired display to outclass bottom-of-the-league West Brom and claim their first win since the departure of Roy Keane as manager.
Kenwyne Jones opened the scoring when he profited from some non-existent marking to head past Scott Carson.
Jones tapped in after two fine saves by Carson, and Andy Reid made it three before half-time with a back-post header from Steed Malbranque's cross.
Djibril Cisse then drilled in from the spot after Roman Bednar's handball.
Such a comfortable margin was the least Sunderland deserved for their overwhelming superiority against a West Brom side who are six points adrift of safety.
Caretaker manager Ricky Sbragia will have been delighted with his side's attitude and application as the hosts hauled themselves out of the relegation zone at the expense of neighbours Newcastle, who play on Sunday.
West Brom have now gone 10 league games without a victory, picking up just two points from a possible 30 and scoring a league-low 12 goals in 17 matches.
They remain the only club in Premier League history to have avoided relegation after being bottom at Christmas (in 2004) and Tony Mowbray's men may well find themselves facing a similar predicament this time round.
Sunderland came into the match having lost six of their previous seven matches, so it was hardly surprising that they made a timid start.
Confidence was evidently in short supply as countless passes went astray from both sides and, aside from a Jones volley that was comfortably saved by Carson, goal-scoring chances were conspicuous by their absence.
Sbragia praises Sunderland strikers
But West Brom's ball retention was woeful and, in the absence of the injured Ishmael Miller, they had no target man to retain possession in attack.
That gave Sunderland the belief to surge forward without fear of being caught on the counter attack and the midfield trio of Reid, captain Kieran Richardson and Malbranque looked to release strikers Jones and Cisse at every opportunity.
In the 22nd minute Reid switched from his station on the left flank over to the right and crossed invitingly for Jones to ghost away from Gianni Zuiverloon and power a diving header beyond Carson.
If the England goalkeeper stared accusingly at his back four on that occasion, he was doubly furious two minutes later.
Carson reacted superbly to repel Cisse's drive from the right and then again after a close-range follow-up by Reid, but Jones was able to waltz in unmarked and prod into an empty goal.
Mowbray frustrated by poor defending
Every Sunderland player appeared eager to get on the ball and, despite deploying a five-man midfield when on the back foot, Mowbray's side could not contain the hosts' attack-minded midfield three, ably supported by the holding Teemu Tainio.
On 39 minutes, Jones flicked the ball through Paul Robinson's legs into the path of Malbranque, who floated a delightful ball from the right for an on-rushing Reid to head across goal and into Carson's net.
Mowbray attempted to shake things up at half-time by introducing Roman Bednar and Do-Heon Kim in place of Chris Brunt and James Morrison.
But within a minute of coming on, Bednar handled amid a penalty-area scrap and Cisse laced his spot-kick straight down the middle.
Reid hails 'confident' Sunderland
West Brom probed away in the hope of salvaging an element of respect but they lacked creativity and a cutting edge, and Mowbray will surely look to enter the transfer market in January.
Their failure to clear a long punt forward let in Cisse, only for the Frenchman to half-volley over the cross-bar.
Carson saved well with his feet to deny Jones his hat-trick after the Trinidadian had befuddled Jonas Olsson, but the day belonged to Sunderland.
Sunderland caretaker manager Ricky Sbragia: "I am not even thinking about the job, and that's the truth. If it's there, it's there; if it's not, it's not.
"We have a big game next week at Hull and all I can do is focus on what we want to do there.
"If we win games, we win games. That's fantastic for Sunderland Football Club, and we need that.
"We need to get out of the mire we are in just now, and that's one step to it. But there's a lot to go."
West Brom manager Tony Mowbray: "It (the defence) is not a part of the team I have really been over-concerned about recently.
"But today we didn't defend our box well enough and the first couple of times Sunderland asked any questions, we conceded goals.
"The main thing for me is to put this game behind us very quickly and look forward to the next one.
"If we win next week and we win the week after and we win the week after, then we will be in mid-table."
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.