The Merseyside club's seventh successive Premier League victory, achieved without the swaggering attacking play that has lit up their recent performances, moved them back ahead of Manchester City into second place one point behind Chelsea.
After struggling to get into their stride against a stubborn Sunderland rearguard, a powerful Gerrard free kick and a curled effort from Sturridge earned Liverpool a two-goal advantage before Ki sung-Yueng pulled one back 14 minutes from time to ensure a nervy end to the game.
"You have to give credit to Sunderland, they have come to make it difficult for us, they were difficult to break down," Liverpool captain Gerrard told Sky Sports.
"We need to learn that when we go two goals ahead we can't concede. We need to hold on and pass it better."
Defeat left struggling Sunderland three points adrift of safety in 18th place in the relegation battle as West Ham United moved further clear of danger with a 2-1 home win over 10-man Hull City.
The east London club suffered the ignominy of being booed despite taking all three points, heightening the tension between manager Sam Allardyce and the Upton Park crowd.


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