Hartlepool United 1 Sunderland 0
Stuart Vose at Victoria Park
Sunderland slipped to defeat in a local derby at Hartlepool in a stereotypical game of two halves.
Pools were the better side in the first period and took the lead just eight minutes in with a smart finish from summer signing Steve Howard.
But the second 45 minutes belonged to Sunderland, who were denied an equaliser only by the heroics of keeper Scott Flinders.
The stopper made a number of fine saves, including an exceptional reflex block to keep out Fraizer Campbell's close-range header.
And Flinders' efforts earned his side victory against a strong Sunderland outfit who found their rhythm after the break but just couldn't make their mark in front of goal.
Martin O'Neill opted to hand Ryan Noble a start after his heroics against Groningen as Sunderland kicked off their UK pre-season campaign.
But it was the hosts who made the better start, taking the lead just eight minutes in.
A long ball forward found the bustling Howard who burst past a stretching Titus Bramble to lash a low shot under Simon Mignolet.
He almost doubled the lead 20 minutes in, poking a shot through Bramble's legs and wide from the edge of the box after being teed up by Evan Horwood.
Sunderland had plenty of possession but couldn't maneouvre themselves into dangerous positions with any regularity, although David Meyler did have a dangerous cross-shot cleared from inside the six-yard box just before the half-hour.
It was Meyler who threatened again eight minutes before the break, meeting Campbell's cross first time on the edge of the box but failing to test Flinders in the Pools goal.
After struggling to get going in the first half, Sunderland came out for the second full of energy and created two good chances within six minutes of the restart.
Connor Wickham's turn outfoxed his marker before he shot straight at Flinders, before Campbell's low drive skimmed across the turf and wide of the far post.
Then Lee Cattermole found the onrushing Kieran Richardson with a clever ball and his shot looked for all the world like it would sneak in before eventually flashing just wide.
Sunderland continued to press, with Flinders pulling off an excellent save to deny Wickham whose shot from distance took a wicked deflection off the covering Peter Hartley.
But the visitors just couldn't break through - Flinders again coming up trumps to deny Campbell's stooping header from six yards, somehow getting down to turn the ball over the bar.
Then Richardson became the latest to be denied, flashing a shot through a crowd of players but finding that man Flinders equal to the task.
And the Hartlepool resistance was complete when Campbell fired inches wide in injury time after pouncing on Noble's header.
Sunderland: Mignolet (Westwood, 46), Gardner, Richardson, Kilgallon (Laing, 80), Bramble, Colback, Campbell, Cattermole © (Knott, 80), Meyler, R Noble, Wickham (Reed, 68).
Subs Not Used: Lynch, Deacon.