Gomes rounds off a miserable afternoon for Bent by saving the striker's penalty
By Sam Lyon
Sunderland were left to rue a host of missed chances as Tottenham returned to winning ways with a victory that moved them back into the top four.
Robbie Keane put Spurs ahead when he bundled in Peter Crouch's knockdown and Tom Huddlestone wrapped up victory with a fierce 20-yarder on 70 minutes.
But, goals aside, Sunderland dominated, with Andy Reid striking the post and Heurelho Gomes making crucial saves.
The most vital came from Darren Bent's penalty after his foul on the striker.
After Premier League defeats by Stoke and rivals Arsenal, the three points were most welcome for a Tottenham side with ambitions of securing a top-four place.
But on another day the Londoners could have been put to the sword by a vibrant Sunderland side, who will wonder how they failed to get anything out of a match they controlled for long periods.
Harry happy with 'fortunate' win
Few will feel the pain more than Bent, whose return to Tottenham - a club at which he spent two years, so often on the sidelines - dominated much of the pre-match talk.
The 25-year-old could barely have hoped to have come into the game on better form having bagged eight goals in 11 appearances this season, but his memories of White Hart Lane will hardly have been enhanced by a miserable afternoon.
First he had to watch as Keane, one of the main reasons he missed out on first-team football at Spurs at the back end of last season, grabbed the opener.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto had a big hand in the goal, his pinpoint cross nodded down expertly by Crouch and Keane bundled home from close range at the second attempt.
Thereafter, though, Sunderland almost completely dominated possession and the chances - with Reid in particularly fine form in the centre of midfield.
At first, the visitors' creation and inventiveness was spoiled by a lack of cutting edge up front - not helped by the absence through suspension of Kenwyne Jones - but soon Spurs were hanging on through a combination of good fortune and desperate defending.
Referee Kevin Friend handed the hosts their first slice of fortune when he waved away Sunderland's penalty appeals when Bent went down under Gomes's challenge - replays suggested the striker got to the ball milliseconds before the Brazilian - and Reid then rattled the post with a beautiful dipping volley from 35 yards.
Moments later Vedran Corluka's back-header fell far too short and Gomes had to be at his best to deny the on-rushing Kieran Richardson inside the box.
Tottenham had completely lost their way, but their biggest let-off came just after the break.
No luck since beachball goal - Bruce
Bent was, almost inevitably, at the heart of it. The striker, with England coach Fabio Capello watching from the stands, this time earned the penalty when he went over Gomes's challenge, but then fluffed a tame spot-kick that was kept out well by the home keeper.
To compound Sunderland's misery, Gomes escaped with just a yellow card for the foul, though he may point to the fact Bent was going away from goal and had gone down somewhat theatrically to earn the penalty in the first place.
Barely believing their good fortune, Spurs finally broke out of their slumber and only a sensational Phil Bardsley block kept out Huddlestone's goal-bound drive with keeper Craig Gordon lying injured inside the area.
The defender could do little about the midfielder's goal, though, Jermain Defoe holding up the ball well and then laying in Huddlestone, whose 20-yard drive rocketed in off the bar.
It was a goal that more than flattered Tottenham, and the expression of Black Cats manager Steve Bruce on the sidelines told the story of a man who must be wondering what he has to do to emerge from the capital with a win after 18 successive fruitless visits.
In a scruffy finale, Spurs substitute Niko Krancjar saw a shot deflected past the post, while Gomes produced yet another fine save after Michael Turner got his head on Fraizer Campbell's cross at the other end.
But in the end Sunderland's failure to finish off all their good work proved pivotal and Tottenham move above Manchester City courtesy of the three points.
Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp: "We got away with it a bit today. We couldn't get going and Sunderland looked very, very good.
"Our keeper was fantastic and we've clawed out a result - sometimes football works like that. A couple of weeks ago we battered Stoke and lost.
"As for their penalty - Gomes says he's tried to get out of the way of the player and got kicked in the chest. I haven't seen it yet but, even if it was a penalty, I don't think he should've got a red card - Bent was going away from goal and sometimes we're too quick to send players off.
"I'd honestly say that even if it was my player who'd got brought down."
Sunderland manager Steve Bruce: "Sometimes in football you have a day like today - since the beach ball incident at Liverpool we've run out of luck and we've been out of luck again today.
"The best opportunities and possession were ours, but we've not taken them and come away with nothing.
"The turning point today was the second-half penalty incident. Darren Bent was through on goal, it's a goal-scoring opportunity, and by the letter of the law their keeper should be sent off.
"Instead it's just a yellow card and he's had the chance to save the penalty. If we're playing 10 men who knows? Still, I'm delighted with the way we played - we completely bossed the game - that's football sometimes."
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