Kakuta (second left) opened his account with his first goal for Sunderland
By Oliver Brett
Sunderland's glaring lack of a fit striker plus some shoddy defending cost them dearly as Fulham celebrated only their second away win of the season.
Gael Kakuta scored his first Fulham goal, running on to Bobby Zamora's cross and bundling the ball home as Sunderland's defenders failed to react.
Soon afterwards, Lee Cattermole fluffed a glorious chance to equalise.
And as Sunderland lost their shape in the second half, Simon Davies scored twice to silence the home crowd.
Sprinting into space, the Welsh winger was on hand to drive Steve Sidwell's accurate cut-back from the left flank into the bottom corner of Simon Mignolet's net.
And after manager Steve Bruce had, in some desperation, pushed Sunderland defender Nedum Onuoha up front - with substitute Anton Ferdinand plugging the gap left behind - Davies put the result beyond any further doubt.
No excuses for poor defending - Bruce
Zamora, relishing one of his few starts this season having broken his leg in September, was the creator, with a cross that Ferdinand and Mignolet both attempted to deal with.
Neither man got hold of the ball and Davies was allowed almost to walk it into the net, with Sunderland defender Ahmed Elmohamady arriving too late to clear.
Dozens of home fans took that as their signal to head to the exits with 17 minutes still to go. And although there is little prospect of them being relegated the result continues a depressing run of just one Sunderland win in 11 Premier League matches.
Fulham, on the other hand, retain ninth spot, and this was a decent performance considering they had to deal with the late loss of towering defender Brede Hangeland (illness) and leading scorer Clint Dempsey (hamstring).
Sunderland looked the livelier of the two sides early on. Stephane Sessegnon and Steed Malbranque created some interesting openings but Fulham's defenders, who did not have a tall target man to deal with, coped well enough.
The visitors' first chance fell to Eidur Gudjohnsen but the tall forward from Iceland had to turn and shoot quickly, and blazed the chance over the bar.
Sunderland's first really good opportunity came when former Fulham favourite Malbranque charged down an attempted clearance from Philippe Senderos, only to drag his shot well wide of the far post when, at the very least, he should have forced Mark Schwarzer into a save.
Hughes targets top-ten finish
It was a worrying moment for former Arsenal defender Senderos, who was making his first appearance for Mark Hughes's team since signing in June 2010 - he has missed most of the season because of an Achilles injury.
Dempsey's absence handed a berth in the starting line-up to 19-year-old Frenchman Kakuta, and it was he who opened the scoring on 33 minutes.
It looked like there were plenty of defenders for him to deal with as he brought Zamora's assist under control but somehow none put in a meaningful tackle and Kakuta, despite stumbling, was able to poke the ball into the net.
Sunderland should have levelled almost immediately but Cattermole, after exchanging passes beautifully with Sessegnon, side-footed his shot weakly at Schwarzer.
More Sunderland chances came in the first half. Sessegnon's strike was deflected just wide of the top corner by Chris Baird and Jordan Henderson, on the edge of the area, tried to drive in a cross when he should have shot and the opportunity passed.
The second half was a muted affair, featuring barely a glimmer of a Sunderland fightback.
Sessegnon showed some skill to shrug off a couple of challenges but his shot did not test Schwarzer and from then on Fulham looked the more likely team to score.
The Londoners soon doubled their lead through Davies's first goal as Sunderland began to lose heart. And Davies later grabbed his second, a much more scrappy goal, to increase the pain for Bruce's out-of-form, injury-hit side.
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