Many of those on the field were experiencing Tyne-Wear rivalries for the first time, while Black Cats boss Paolo Di Canio was thrown into the gladiatorial arena in just his second game in charge.
As expected, the match started at a frenetic pace - with Steven Taylor fortunate to get away with one slip and a clear tug on the shirt of Danny Graham inside the penalty area.
There was always the threat of emotions spilling over, and Yoan Gouffran - the first of four players to see yellow during the first half - was lucky to get away with an over-the-top challenge which caught Johnson's ankle.
Sunderland kept their heads, though, and went in front on 27 minutes when Jonas Gutierrez surrendered possession in midfield and James McClean rolled the ball on for Sessegnon to embark on a driving run and drill low into the bottom corner from 20 yards out.
Papiss Cisse came close to levelling within seconds of the re-start, but he was denied by a sprawling stop from Simon Mignolet after wriggling away from Phil Bardsley.
The same two players were then at the centre of attention again moments later, with Cisse seeing a sweeping effort from the centre of the box kept out by a low save from Mignolet.
Carlos Cuellar came close to doubling Sunderland's lead four minutes before the interval, but another piece of top goalkeeping - this time from Tim Krul - saw him fail to convert with a close-range header.
The Black Cats continued to pose problems at the start of the second 45, with Johnson unable to get enough elevation on an attempted lob.
Bardsley was forced off with a knock on 54 minutes, forcing Sunderland to tweak their approach slightly, and shortly afterwards Krul landed heavily on his shoulder and had to make way for Newcastle's back-up shot-stopper Rob Elliot.
The Magpies thought they had restored parity just past the hour mark, but Cisse saw an offside call go against him as he bundled home following a free-kick - with replays suggesting the decision was harsh on the hosts.
Graham then saw another penalty call fall on deaf ears, with referee Howard Webb unmoved despite a back post header cannoning off the arm of Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, before substitute Hatem Ben Arfa planted a free header over the top at the opposite end of the field.
He was made to pay for that miss on 74 minutes, with Johnson allowed to gather wide on the left, drift across the field unchallenged and lash an unstoppable drive past a helpless Elliott from distance.
It got even better for the Black Cats eight minutes from time, with Vaughan crashing a stinging shot into the top corner - sparking wild celebrations which a jubilant Di Canio could not help but involved in.