Pep Guardiola's side had drawn 2-2 at both Real Sociedad and Valencia in their previous two away matches in La Liga but they returned from Asturias with all three points thanks to Adriano's solitary early strike.
Barca are now level on 14 points with surprise package Levante at the summit, while Sporting continue to struggle at the foot of the standings after suffering their fifth defeat in six games.
Barca had netted 22 times in their opening five league games and also thrashed BATE Borisov 5-0 away from home in the Champions League in midweek, but the European and Spanish champions found it tough to create many chances against a battling Sporting side.
Another big-scoring night had initially looked on the cards when Adriano put the visitors ahead after just 12 minutes, the Brazilian slotting in after Xavi's 25-yard shot had come back off the inside of the post.
However, the expected goal deluge did not arrive as Sporting made it tough for their illustrious visitors, who were missing the attacking threats of Andres Iniesta, Alexis Sanchez, Cesc Fabregas and Ibrahim Afellay because of injuries.
Soon after Adriano had put Barca ahead, the Catalan side almost doubled their lead when Thiago found David Villa in the area, but the former Sporting striker saw his effort parried away by Juan Pablo Colinas.
Barca would not come any closer to increasing their lead in the remainder of the match, although they had few concerns at the back either.
Sporting twice threatened before the break but neither Oscar Trejo or Nacho Cases was able to beat Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
The second half continued in a similar fashion, with chances few and far between at either end, although Colinas was called on to deny Lionel Messi in the 76th minute as the Argentinian looked for his ninth league goal of the campaign.
Colinas was also tested 10 minutes later by Messi's 25-yard thunderbolt and it looked as though Barca had grabbed their second goal when Seydou Keita tapped in the loose ball after Colinas had spilled the shot.
However, Dani Alves, who had latched onto the rebound and played it inside for Keita to roll into an empty net, had just been offside when Messi shot so the goal was ruled out.