Tottenham leapfrogged Chelsea and moved up to fourth in the Premier League table after coming from behind to beat Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
With William Gallas off the field changing his boots, Asamoah Gyan's skilful finish opened the scoring.
But Spurs equalised on the stroke of half-time through Michael Dawson's thunderous header direct from a corner.
Niko Kranjcar had an excellent game and the Croat gave the visitors all three points with a terrific volley.
The north Londoners can now travel to Milan for their Champions League last-16 tie in good spirits, with manager Harry Redknapp hoping to add Rafael van der Vaart to his squad should the flying Dutchman recover from the injury that kept him out of this game.
Redknapp predicts six-way battle for fourth
An indication that Redknapp had Tuesday's European tie at the forefront of his mind came in his starting selection.
Already robbed of leading scorer Van der Vaart because of injury, the Spurs boss also rested Peter Crouch and Aaron Lennon - but with both teams starting in a 4-4-2 formation the initial signs were encouraging for the visitors.
However, with their first genuine attack, Sunderland scored - and they did it with Tottenham needlessly down to 10 men as Gallas laced up a replacement pair of boots.
Absurdly, the Frenchman had already changed his mind about which length of studs was most appropriate during the warm-up - but after 10 minutes went back to his original selection.
Meanwhile, Kieran Richardson found space down the left flank, and swung a telling cross through to Gyan.
The Ghanaian, so important now for the Black Cats in the post-Darren Bent era, took one touch with his left boot before turning and firing his shot through Dawson's legs and into the bottom corner of the Tottenham goal.
One had to sympathise with Dawson, forced to mark both Gyan and the advancing midfielder Stephane Sessegnon. The defender's job would have been half as complicated with Gallas on the field.
For 20 minutes or so, the home side pressed hard in midfield, while their opponents generally laboured, both sides struggling to create meaningful opportunities.
Bruce slams Sunderland defending
The match proved an unedifying spectacle until Spurs won a corner following their first move of real quality, John Mensah making an important block with Jermain Defoe poised to strike.
Phil Bardsley's clearing header went out for a second corner, and this time Dawson rose majestically from Steven Pienaar's delivery to head home from near the penalty spot.
Craig Gordon might have done better - but Gallas, intentionally or otherwise, made a screening run across the Sunderland goalkeeper to block his line of sight at the crucial moment.
Unsurprisingly lifted by the goal, the visitors were the more dangerous side early in the second half.
One particularly skilful move looked like ending in a goal for Gallas, who was just inches from goal when toe-poking his shot straight at Gordon.
In a rare Sunderland break Richardson fed Steed Malbranque, but his shot was cleared away by Dawson before Tottenham launched another attack.
This time, Sandro made the critical break from the right flank before firing in a good cross. Titus Bramble's header away was not controlled, and Kranjcar was in exactly the right place to smack a first-time volley with finesse and power past a stranded Gordon.
Kranjcar was making only his second Premier League start of the season, but the longer the game went on the more accomplished he looked, finding plenty of space on the left-side of midfield.
With Sandro also beginning to enjoy himself in a central position alongside him, Spurs began to control affairs.
Ahmed Elmohamady came on for Malbranque as Sunderland pushed Sessegnon up to play alongside Gyan, and Redknapp opted for the pace of Aaron Lennon over a tiring Pienaar for the final 15 minutes.
There were few notable exchanges towards the end of the game, and although they received some raucous support throughout Sunderland were left to reflect on their third consecutive defeat in the league.
80:25 Raniere Sandro concedes a free kick for a foul on Phillip Bardsley. Free kick crossed right-footed by Jordan Henderson, Vedran
Corluka manages to make a clearance.
79:54 Booking The referee books Roman Pavlyuchenko for time wasting.
78:53 Kieran Richardson takes a shot.
77:04 Substitution Aaron Lennon replaces Steven Pienaar.
75:36 Substitution Steed Malbranque leaves the field to be replaced by Ahmed Elmohamady.
74:58 Asamoah Gyan is caught offside. Heurelho Gomes takes the free kick.
74:58 Booking The referee shows Heurelho Gomes a yellow card.
73:02 Long range shot from Kieran Richardson misses to the left of the target.
71:40 Roman Pavlyuchenko takes a shot. Save made by Craig Gordon.
71:06 Asamoah Gyan concedes a free kick for a foul on Heurelho Gomes. Heurelho Gomes takes the free kick.
69:15 Shot from 35 yards by Sulley Muntari missed to the left of goal.
68:17 Foul by Roman Pavlyuchenko on John Mensah, free kick awarded. Titus Bramble takes the direct free kick.
66:52 Unfair challenge on Niko Kranjcar by Kieran Richardson results in a free kick. Free kick taken by Vedran Corluka.
66:52 Booking Kieran Richardson is shown a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.
63:23 William Gallas gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Asamoah Gyan. Direct effort from the free kick comes in from
61:33 The ball is sent over by Roman Pavlyuchenko, save by Craig Gordon.
60:36 The ball is delivered by Roman Pavlyuchenko.
59:10 Steven Pienaar produces a left-footed shot from just outside the area that goes harmlessly over the bar.
58:36 Inswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Sulley Muntari, save by Heurelho Gomes.
57:49 Free kick awarded for a foul by Steven Pienaar on Steed Malbranque. Centre by Sulley Muntari, Stephane Sessegnon takes a shot.
Blocked by William Gallas.
56:40 GOAL - Niko Kranjcar:Sunderland 1 - 2 Tottenham Niko Kranjcar finds the net with a goal from the edge of the area to the bottom left corner of the goal. Sunderland 1-2 Tottenham.
56:35 The ball is sent over by Raniere Sandro, clearance made by John Mensah.
54:55 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Vedran Corluka by Steed Malbranque. Direct free kick taken by Vedran Corluka.
54:05 Stephane Sessegnon takes a shot. Save by Heurelho Gomes.
53:07 Jordan Henderson has an effort at goal from just outside the area which goes wide of the left-hand post.
52:27 Steed Malbranque takes a shot. Save by Heurelho Gomes.
50:52 The ball is crossed by Steven Pienaar, William Gallas takes a shot. Craig Gordon makes a save.
50:28 Corner from right by-line taken by Steven Pienaar.
47:04 Free kick awarded for a foul by Roman Pavlyuchenko on Jordan Henderson. Jordan Henderson takes the direct free kick.
46:08 Corner from left by-line taken by Jordan Henderson.
45:01 The game restarts for the second half.
45:00+1:37 The referee calls an end to the first half.
45:00+1:11 Sulley Muntari produces a left-footed shot from just outside the area that goes harmlessly over the bar.
45:00+0:13 Free kick awarded for a foul by Michael Dawson on Nedum Onuoha. Kieran Richardson has an effort direct from the free kick.
45:00+0:13 Booking Michael Dawson is shown a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.
43:41 Steven Pienaar takes the outswinging corner, assist on the goal came from Steven Pienaar.
43:41 GOAL - Michael Dawson:Sunderland 1 - 1 Tottenham Michael Dawson finds the back of the net with a goal from inside the penalty area low into the middle of the goal. Sunderland
42:52 Niko Kranjcar takes the inswinging corner, Phillip Bardsley manages to make a clearance.
42:47 The ball is crossed by Benoit Assou-Ekotto, clearance made by John Mensah.
41:00 Free kick awarded for a foul by Steed Malbranque on Raniere Sandro. Vedran Corluka takes the direct free kick.
38:07 Niko Kranjcar fouled by Jordan Henderson, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Benoit Assou-Ekotto.
36:25 Shot on goal by Roman Pavlyuchenko from just inside the area clears the crossbar.
32:22 Free kick awarded for a foul by Sulley Muntari on Roman Pavlyuchenko. Niko Kranjcar produces a strike on goal direct from
the free kick.
32:22 Booking Sulley Muntari goes into the book.
30:13 Kieran Richardson concedes a free kick for a foul on Jermaine Jenas. Shot comes in from Jermaine Jenas from the free kick.
29:22 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Niko Kranjcar by Kieran Richardson. Benoit Assou-Ekotto delivers the ball from
the free kick left-footed from left channel, Titus Bramble makes a clearance.
27:54 Shot by Phillip Bardsley from just outside the area goes over the net.
24:58 Kieran Richardson challenges Raniere Sandro unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by William Gallas.
23:55 Jermain Defoe is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Free kick taken by Craig Gordon.
21:43 Effort on goal by Niko Kranjcar from deep inside the penalty area misses to the right of the goal.
20:45 Stephane Sessegnon is penalised for a handball. Free kick taken by Steven Pienaar.
20:30 Jermaine Jenas fouled by Kieran Richardson, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick taken by Jermaine Jenas.
17:46 Steven Pienaar concedes a free kick for a foul on Steed Malbranque. The free kick is delivered right-footed by Jordan Henderson
from left wing, Steven Pienaar manages to make a clearance.
17:34 Free kick awarded for a foul by Steed Malbranque on Steven Pienaar. Vedran Corluka takes the free kick.
17:17 Unfair challenge on Stephane Sessegnon by Raniere Sandro results in a free kick. Stephane Sessegnon restarts play with the
16:03 Effort on goal by Raniere Sandro from deep inside the area goes harmlessly over the bar.
13:30 Stephane Sessegnon takes a shot. Save by Heurelho Gomes.
12:12 Foul by Raniere Sandro on Kieran Richardson, free kick awarded. Jordan Henderson takes the free kick.
11:28 John Mensah gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Roman Pavlyuchenko. Direct free kick taken by Michael Dawson.
10:09 The assist for the goal came from Kieran Richardson.
10:09 GOAL - Asamoah Gyan:Sunderland 1 - 0 Tottenham Asamoah Gyan gets on the score sheet with a goal from inside the box to the bottom right corner of the goal. Sunderland 1-0
8:25 Free kick awarded for a foul by Raniere Sandro on Steed Malbranque. The ball is sent over by Jordan Henderson, Steed Malbranque
takes a shot. Blocked by Stephane Sessegnon.
6:53 The assistant referee signals for offside against Asamoah Gyan. Indirect free kick taken by Heurelho Gomes.
5:46 Handball by Roman Pavlyuchenko. Direct free kick taken by Sulley Muntari.
5:38 A cross is delivered by Nedum Onuoha, clearance by Vedran Corluka.
3:28 Effort on goal by Jermaine Jenas from just inside the box goes harmlessly over the target.
2:44 Unfair challenge on Jermain Defoe by Phillip Bardsley results in a free kick. Jermaine Jenas restarts play with the free kick.
0:00 The match gets underway.
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