Lee Cattermole and Andrea Dossena were both sent off for reckless challenges on former Sunderland players as Gus Poyet's side failed to build on their Wear-Tyne win over Newcastle last weekend.
Already trailing to a Carlos Cuellar own goal after 25 minutes, Cattermole received a straight red card from referee Andre Marriner for an awful tackle on his former team-mate Ahmed Elmohamady. He was followed down the tunnel just two minutes later by Dossena after the Sunderland full-back went over the ball and stamped on David Meyler's shin.
The nine men battled gamely after the break, restricting Hull to long-range efforts and could have pinched a point when substitute Adam Johnson found himself one-on-one with Steve Harper but the former Newcastle keeper spread himself well to deny him.
The Tigers came within inches of making the game safe in the 80th minute but Jake Livermore saw his fine strike come back off the upright with replacement keeper Vito Mannone well beaten.
But that will matter little to Hull boss Steve Bruce, who was facing the Wearsiders for the first time since being sacked.
After a cagey start Hull created the first real chance in the 17th minute, Tom Huddlestone's free-kick finding Curtis Davies whose flicked header narrowly evaded both Livermore and Paul McShane.
In the 25th minute the hosts were in front thanks to the own goal. John O'Shea was partly responsible, needlessly heading out of play to give the Tigers a throw-in deep in Sunderland territory.
Rosenior took it and when the ball made its way back to him sent in a fizzing near-post cross for Yannick Sagbo.
He flung a leg at it but it was his marker, Cuellar, who unwittingly headed past Keiren Westwood from a tight angle.
Westwood's afternoon was cut short by injury when McShane clattered him, unintentionally, while looking to get on the end of another Davies header.
The Republic of Ireland keeper attempted to play on but was visibly groggy and was forced to make way for Mannone, a former Hull loanee.
Buoyed by the goal, Hull kept possession for the best part of five minutes, with the home fans greeting every touch with a traditional 'Ole'.
Whether or not that contributed to the Black Cats' frustration is hard to know, but they soon betrayed a recklessness that left them two men down at the break.
Cattermole was the first to go followed swiftly by Dossena and the visitors went in at the break reeling.
Poyet made two changes at the break, Johnson and Wes Brown replacing Jozy Altidore and Fabio Borini.
Regardless, Hull dominated possession as expected. A couple of hopeful efforts sailed over before Livermore played in George Boyd, who bundled past Cuellar before shooting just wide across goal.
Sunderland gave Hull a couple of reminders that their lead was still a slender one - Johnson shooting wide of the upright after a sloppy clearance from Maynor Figueroa and Seb Larsson putting a dangerous free-kick into the side netting.
Bruce made a pair of attacking changes as he looked to seal the points, Robert Koren and Nick Proschwitz replacing Meyler and Rosenior, with Elmohamady slotting in at right-back.
But Sunderland should have drawn level with 12 minutes left when Johnson got on the end of a long ball and was denied by Harper from a glorious one-on-one position.
It was a crucial intervention by the former Newcastle man.
Within seconds the ball was at the other end of the pitch, Livermore rattling the post from 20 yards and that was the closest either side came to adding to the score.