Sam Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland ended in an all too familiar defeat for the Black Cats, beaten 1-0 by West Bromwich Albion.
A controversial 54th minute winner from Saido Berahino was enough to separate the sides to leave Sunderland still chasing their first Premier League win of the season.
The Baggies winner had more than a touch of fortune about it, with Berahino fouling Costel Pantilimon in the build-up.
But the 6ft 7” Romanian stopper should have been stronger in claiming the ball against one of the smallest players on the pitch.
Defeat, Sunderland’s sixth of the season, increases the pressure further on the Wear-Tyne derby at the Stadium of Light next weekend.
Allardyce made three changes with Sebastian Coates and Jeremain Lens both suspended and Ola Toivonen missing out with a groin injury.
In came Younes Kaboul to central defence, Jordi Gomez into the midfield three and Seb Larsson on the right-hand side of the front three.
The game was wide open in the opening stages, with Sunderland’s midfield trio of Gomez, Lee Cattermole and Yann M’Vila seeing plenty of the ball.
Eleven minutes in and Sunderland should have opened the scoring.
Billy Jones, dangerous in the opening stages, saw his header following a goalmouth scramble magnificently palmed over the bar by Baggies stopper Boaz Myhill.
Ex-Sunderland forward Stephane Sessegnon was recalled from the cold by Tony Pulis, starting his first game for the Baggies since April.
And he had the hosts’ best chance of the opening after 21 minutes, a poor touch from Cattermole saw Sessegnon burst forward but he shot wide from 18-yards.
That was it in terms of clear openings, with little else to trouble the scoreboard operators.
The hosts were booed off at the break, Allardyce will have been pleased to see a more resolute Sunderland performance though.
Half-Time: West Brom 0 Sunderland 0
There was an early penalty shout, Rondon’s header rebounding off the arm of Kaboul as he turned his back but referee Atkinson waved away the appeals.
West Brom, who hadn’t looked a threat in the opening 45 minutes took the lead eight minutes into the second half.
The goal came from an innocuos looking cross from Chris Brunt.
Berahino was backing into Pantilimon as he came to claim the ball on the six-yard line but fumbled the attempt, allowing the Baggies forward a tap in on the line.
Replays showed it was a foul but Pantilimon should have been more clinical.
Rondon fired over the bar moments later following a low, dangerous cross from Brunt.
Allardyce replaced Larsson with Adam Johnson from the subs bench as he looked to inject some much-needed creativity as they chased the game.
Jermain Defoe was soon on to replace Gomez with Allardyce pushing players forward in numbers in a bid to get something from the game.
M’Vila a long-range effort fumbled by Myhill as Sunderland pressed forward, while sub Danny Graham headed well wide from 12-yards.
Sunderland lacked quality in the final third and never recovered from Berahino’s winner midway through the second-half.
There was a melee involving players from both sides after the final whistle after ex-Sunderland winger McClean goaded the travelling supporters.
It led to ugly scenes with Lee Cattermole and Graham among several players getting involved before the players were led of the pitch.
Full-Time: West Brom 1 Sunderland 0
West Brom (4-4-2): Myhill, Dawson, McAuley, Evans, Brunt, McClean, Fletcher, Yacob, Sessegnon, Rondon (Lambert, 70), Berahino (Gardner, 79).
Subs Not Used: Lindegaard; Olsson, Chester, McManaman, Anichebe.
Booked: Dawson (9), Yacob (55)
Goals: Berahino (54)
Sunderland (4-3-3): Pantilimon, Jones, Yedlin, Kaboul, O’Shea (c), Larsson (Johnson, 61), Cattermole, Gomez (Defoe, 70), M’Vila, Borini, Fletcher (Graham, 75).
Subs Not Used: Mannone, Brown, Bridcutt, van Aanholt.
Booked: Pantilimon (55), Borini (84)
Referee: Martin Atkinson