Martin Harnik was on target twice for Stuttgart, who had lost three in a row coming into this Baden-Wurttemberg derby.
Vladimir Darida brought Freiburg level at 1-1, but Carlos Gruezo and Timo Werner both struck before Harnik’s second, which came after Stefan Mitrovic had been sent off, compounding Freiburg’s misery on what was Stevens’ night.
Stevens is back at the club after the departure of Armin Veh.
Freiburg showed the confidence one might expect from a side who had won two and drawn one of their last three with several chances to go in front.
The best was missed by Sebastian Freis when he scooped his shot over the crossbar from close range after Sven Ulreich fumbled a shot from Marc Torrejon.
Stuttgart were struggling to get out of their own half, but when they did, they took the lead.
Antonio Rudiger headed a left-wing corner on to the far post where the unmarked Harnik got his head behind the ball from close range to score.
Harnik wasted a chance to double Stuttgart’s lead when he was denied by Roman Burki in a one-on-one situation, and almost immediately Freiburg levelled.
Darida was given too much time and room to pick his spot in the bottom left-hand corner from 25 yards out.
Freiburg could have taken the lead just before half-time when Felix Klaus hit the crossbar, but it was Stuttgart who drew the next blood with Gruezo’s pile-driver restoring their lead after Christian Gentner’s shot was blocked just in front of the line.
Things went from bad to worse for Freiburg when Werner nutmegged Roman Burki to increase Stuttgart’s lead.
Freiburg’s hopes of recovering were dashed when Mitrovic fouled Harnik on the edge of the penalty area, earning a straight red card and leaving the hosts with 10 men for the final 20 minutes.
Harnik took full advantage to help Gotoku Sakai’s shot into the far corner and seal a precious win for Stuttgart on the return of last season’s saviour Stevens.