Second half goals from set pieces ended Sunderland's horrendous winless streak, and we now can at least attempt to avoid finishing bottom.
The gap is now four points between David Moyes' men and Middlesbrough. Hull are two points clear of Swansea and the drop zone, having lost a crucial late fixture.
Sunderland kept Hull City at bay in a competitive first half, where neither side could make a breakthrough.
The Black Cats best chance was squandered early, George Honeyman missing a free header from an inviting Jones cross. The diminutive midfielder had ghosted into space but could only head wide from close range in the fifth minute.
City's gameplan was obvious, continually attacking down Sunderland's right attempting to expose the limited Jones and disinterested Fabio Borini. Kamil Grosicki and Andrew Robertson produced several quality crosses throughout the first half. Lamine Kone, John O'Shea and Jordan Pickford all made crucial interceptions keeping Oumar Niasse and Abel Hernandez quiet.
Pickford was forced into one quality first half save - the young keeper got down quickly to parry a Sam Clucas half volley away from goal. The midfielder was well found by Hernandez, who glanced to Clucas after yet another cross from Sunderland's right.
Just moments later Harry Maguire nearly scored. The centre half drove past Borini's weak challenge shooting just wide from distance through the leg's of Jones.
Defoe missed the target from distance ending one of the Wearsider's best moves. The 34 year old was well found in space but failed to produce his usual accuracy running at the Tiger's back four.
The visitors got lucky as Hull pressure grew towards the end of the first half. Lazar Markovic kept a Hull cross alive at the back post, Niasse teed himself up with bicycle kick attempt. John O'Shea blocked the shot with his elbow. Referee Neil Swarbrick gave the Sunderland skipper the benefit of the doubt, likely due to how close he was to Niasse. On replay it appeared O'Shea deliberately moved his arm towards the ball.
Hernandez wasted a good opportunity for the home side, waltzing past a couple weak Sunderland challenges. He cut inside and shot wide letting the Black Cats off.
Minutes before the break O'Shea misjudged a quality chance. The veteran defender got free at the near post from a Honeyman corner, only to misjudge the flight of the ball. He was only able to glance his header wide from close range.
The second half started at a frenetic chaotic pace. Within a couple of minutes Hull had another strong penalty shout. Markovic went down under pressure from Victor Anichebe. The winger fell easily, but Anichebe was the wrong side of him and clumsy in his attempts to put the on loan man under pressure.
It took Defoe several chances to end his goal drought. He had a great opening in the 50th minute, he raced onto a long ball, to get immediately in behind the Hull defence. His shot across Eldin Jakupovic, was well placed but lacked the pace needed to beat the Swiss international.
Ex Sunderland man Alfred N'Diaye missed a sitter. He was unmarked three yards out shooting at an open goal and somehow shot wide. Pickford was in no man's land after failing to intercept a Grosicki cross.
The game remained scoreless after an excellent Pickford stop. He was at full stretch to deny Markovic, who's header was on target, only for Pickford athletically to parry over.
O'Shea produced an outstanding block to keep Sunderland level. Robertson's deflected cross fell perfectly to Hernandez at close range. From nowhere the Irishman lunged across to deflect the Uruguayan's effort wide.
Defoe was uncharacteristically poor in front of goal again. Anichebe cut back to the in demand striker, but Defoe blasted over, unmarked at the edge of the Hull area.
With just over 20 minutes to go Sunderland scored. O'Shea was first to another Honeyman corner at the near post. His flick on was hammered into the net by a diving Jones.
Niasse was next to squander for Hull. The on loan Everton man, shot wide with the outside of his foot. Well found by Robertson, he was free inside the Sunderland area, but miscued attempting to find the bottom corner.
High in demand Pickford did brilliantly again. For what felt like the 1000th time Hull got in behind Sunderland on the right. Niasse cutback to Hernandez who fired at the near post from close range. His powerful shot was somehow deflected by Pickford, who showed outstanding reflexes.
Hull called for a penalty for a third time as they began to get desperate. Maguire went down under pressure from Kone. Contact was minimal and the defender lost possession throwing himself on the ground.
Sunderland sealed the victory in injury time. Sebastian Larsson's flat free kick was diverted in by Defoe. The England international blocked home from close range - he was stood a yard offside as Larsson delivered.
It is a rare victory to savour in an awful campaign - hopefully Moyes and Sunderland will continue to show this level of commitment until the end of the season.