Victor Anichebe was handed his first start for the lads as he lined up alongside Defoe up top, with Sunderland resorting to a 4-4-2 setup. Jack Rodwell would miss out from any inclusion due to a hamstring injury.
The game got off to a relatively slow start, with both sides enjoying a fair share of possession but neither able to open up the other.
The first glimmer of the chance for the visitors came as the ten minute mark approached: Anichebe scooped a ball over the heads of the Bournemouth defence and into the path of Defoe - but the veteran striker couldn't get to the ball in time.
Harry Arter tested the Sunderland defence shortly after, as the Cats' back line allowed him enough space to fire at goal with all of his force, but Pickford was able to parry the danger away.
A minute later, the home side would take the lead. A slick Bournemouth move opened Sunderland up as Adam Smith was able to drift down the flank untracked and send a ball across the wake of the goalmouth - giving Darren Gosling an easy tap-in for 1-0.
Sunderland nearly found a way back in shortly after, Anichebe linked up well with Patrick van Aanholt marauding down the wing, but a rather simple pass to an unmarked Defoe was squandered.
Lamine Kone handed Bournemouth the opportunity to double their advantage as his first touch allowed King to dispossess him, who sent Stanlislas through. But the resulting strike could only find the side-netting.
The away side lacked any cutting edge as Bournemouth continued to ask questions of the Sunderland back-line. But the next goal to come would be ours.
Defoe sends Anichebe through into an abyss of black-and-red shirts, but the Nigerian international's physicality was too much for them, and Big Vic was able to muscle himself into space before firing into the top corner from close range. All square.
Sunderland would have the ball in the net again before the first half was up; Defoe, Anichebe and Jones all linking up fantastically to find Watmore, but the young winger was offside when he pulled the trigger.
Little else would happen for the remainder of the first half, other than Pienaar getting booked.
After the restart, however, Sunderland looked like a team renewed with fighting spirit. The lads were in control of possession, winning plenty of free-kicks and corners as they kept Bournemouth guessing - nothing was to come of this good spell, though.
Just as it looked as if our fortune was changing, Pienaar picked up a second yellow for dissent, reducing both our man advantage and positive mentality.
Bournemouth were back on top, and it looked like little more than a matter of time before we slumped to yet another installation of weekly misery. The home side had corner after corner, which we fended off with a combination of Pickford's heroics and last-ditch tackles.
Normally, this would be the part where I'd say we conceded twice more in the next ten minutes. Amazingly, this was not the case.
Sunderland got a scarce break as Anichebe raced into the box, to then be brought down by Adam Smith. A penalty was awarded, and Defoe converted. The lads were in the lead.
The rest of the game would be a nerve racking experience as Bournemouth furiously searched for a way back into the game. Ten-man Sunderland were under fire from corner after corner, Pickford forced into save after save. The Sunderland penalty box looking more like it was hosting a game of pinball rather than football.
But we held on.
We didn't lose. We didn't draw. This was a Sunderland win, and a well-fought one at that. Luck went our way for once, but it was undoubtedly joined by graft.
Bournemouth 1 - 2 Sunderland
Sunderland: Pickford, Jones, Kone, Djilobodji, van Aanholt, Pienaar, McNair, N'Dong, Watmore (for Love 90'), Anichebe (33'), Defoe (74' P) (for Gooch 90+3)
Subs: Mika, Denayer (for McNair 71'), Januzaj, Gooch (for Defoe 90+3'), Love (for Watmore 90'), Manquillo, Khazri
Bournemouth: Boruc, Smith, Francis, Cook, Daniels, Arter (for Mousset 76'), Gosling (11'), Wilshere, Ibe (for Afobe 46'), Stanislas (for Fraser 82'), King
Subs: Federici, Ake, Mings, Pugh, Fraser (for Stanislas 82'), Mousset (for Arter 76'), Afobe (for Ibe 46')