Adam Johnson opened the scoring on Wearside in the opening 30 seconds after pouncing on Curtis Davies’ ill-measured back pass as the Black Cats looked to build on their derby victory over Newcastle from the offset.
But goals from Gaston Ramirez, James Chester and Nikica Jelavic ensured the visitors would take all three points back with them to Humberside – sealing their first win since Crystal Palace visited the KC Stadium at the start of October.
And Bruce praised his side – the core of which gained promotion to the Premier League 18 months ago – for their response to an ‘awful moment’ from the Tigers skipper Davies.
???It???s one of those awful moments that when you???re a player can happen,??? Bruce told Sports.
???The one thing we needed then was to have a response from my team, and that was the vitally important thing for me because we could have gone or easily have buckled.
“But saying that, there are seven players playing here today that were the mainstay of when we got promoted two-and-a-half years ago the seven of them keep reminding me of how well they???ve done for me, and for their spirit that they???ve managed to dig out a result.
???In the end, the result was fully justified because the second half was as good as I have seen for a long time from us.???
Sunderland manger Gus Poyet questioned a number of decisions official Andre Marriner made in Friday???s game, with the referee failing to award the hosts a penalty despite the ball appearing to strike the hands of Alex Bruce and then Stephen Quinn in quick succession.
But Bruce was quick to jump to the defence of the referee and claimed he should be commended for his performance at the Stadium of Light.
???There were a couple of handballs but the referee, in my opinion, was spot on with the lot of them – but you???re going to get Gus [Poyet] saying the opposite,??? Bruce added.
???When people are hitting balls at you from a yard, what can you do? It???s supposed to be deliberate handball and for me the referee needs a big pat on the back because it???s difficult when you???ve got 40,000 people baying for it [a penalty] and there were one or two decisions like that which the referee got right, but I suppose I???m going to say that.”
A poor run of form had seen the Tigers slip into the bottom three over Christmas but Friday???s result lifted them out of the bottom three. And Bruce remained confident his side would be able to avoid the drop this season should they recover from a lengthy injury crisis.
???We mustn???t forget that we are a newly-promoted team and we???ve been in the Premier League 18 months,??? Bruce said.
???We???ve only been in five years in our history and we???ve been blighted by the loss of form, of course, when things go against you but also with injuries and suspensions, but mainly injuries to our big players.
???From day one, with the loss of Robert Snodgrass, it???s been difficult make no mistake and it???s still going to be difficult because some of them are still long term. We???ve brought a couple back who are on loan so hopefully it will be the result that gives us a big lift.
???We???ve got a huge game on Sunday against Leicester who are up against it like we are but the result puts us in a better position than we were 24 hours ago.
???I still believe that we will finish above where we did last year but make no mistake we are the second season in. It???s important that we remember that we???ve come a long way very quickly and we need a little bounce of the ball and a little bit of luck and of course your big players to stay fit and I???m still convinced we will be OK.???