Jones has ended speculation over his future by signing a new contract
Kenwyne Jones celebrated signing a new contract with Sunderland by grabbing the winner in a hard-fought victory over a Fulham side still to win away.
Jones was on hand on 54 minutes to fire home after Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer had parried Djibril Cisse's shot.
Cisse should have scored himself in the first half but his follow-up shot to a Schwarzer parry from Jones was blocked.
Simon Davies had Fulham's best chance but could only chip over from five yards after a Clint Dempsey nod-down.
Sunderland manager Ricky Sbragia had claimed beforehand that his side's next three league games would dictate the direction in which the Black Cats season would head; a relegation battle or a second-half-of-the-season surge up the table.
He will be glad of the victory but it was not the resounding sort that would allow him to predict the latter with any confidence.
Sbragia happy to get back to winning ways
In contrast, Fulham boss Roy Hodgson is once again left to ponder a toothless away performance from his side that maintains their unwanted winless run away from Craven Cottage in the league this season.
The game started slowly with both sides clearly tentative in light of the repercussions of defeat that had been spelt out by both managers beforehand.
Sunderland sought to dictate the pace of play but with little fluency, and all too often simple passes went astray under pressure from Fulham.
Had Cisse scored after six minutes, instead of firing his shot against a post and wide, the entire nature of the contest could have been altered.
Instead the first half was full of endeavour but starved of quality.
Simon Davies covered much territory in midfield for the visitors but when some composure was called for in the 20th minute, he pulled a good opportunity wide.
Cisse, always a willing runner, was not alert enough to place a shot past a sliding John Pantsil after Schwarzer had parried a Jones shot into his path in the 35th minute.
But Sunderland came out in the second half with the bit between their teeth and were rewarded in the 54th minute.
Andy Reid went on a penetrating run through the middle before the ball was diverted to a well-placed Cisse.
His curling goal-bound shot was parried by Schwarzer, but Jones was on hand to slot home the rebound.
Liberated by taking the lead, the Black Cats continued to push forward with greater purpose and class, embodied by Steed Malbranque, who fashioned an opening on the hour only for Schwarzer to match the effort with a smart save.
Hodgson is in no rush to replace Bullard
However, Sunderland were far from home and dry and they received warning of how brittle a single-goal lead is after 67 minutes.
Were it not for Davies placing his shot inexplicably over after Clint Dempsey had nodded down to him in the six-yard box, the lesson would have been harsher.
Buoyed by the escape, Sunderland went straight down the other end and would have made the deficit far more comfortable but for Schwarzer saving well again from Malbranque.
As the game entered the final stages Fulham's overriding problem, an inability to score, came painfully to the fore for all associated with the visiting side.
Bobby Zamora has struggled for goals all season and on this evidence it is clear why as he failed to make Martin Fulop in the Sunderland goal work when the ball fell to him unmarked at the back post in the 86th minute.
It was the last chance Fulham would get.
Sunderland manager Ricky Sbragia:
"I didn't think we player particularly well and I thought Fulham were the better team in the first half.
"I thought in the second half we started extremely well and got the joy of the goal and from there it was nerves all the way through. We can play better and we know that.
"We seemed really stretched first half and gave the ball away but in the second half we condensed it a lot better.
"Kenwyne (Jones) is an important member of the team and it would have been a great sin if we'd lost him."
Fulham manager Roy Hodgson:
"I think we worked hard and the game was an even sort of game. We can consider ourselves very unfortunate.
"I thought we worked very hard and limited Sunderland to few opportunites.
"I can't ask much more from the players than they're giving me and the shape of the team was good."
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