The relegation-threatened Black Cats, who have now taken just three points from their last nine games, took the lead just before the interval through Cesar Azpilicueta’s own goal.
But their hopes of a Stamford Bridge shock evaporated early in the second half as Matt Kilgallon put through his own net before Branislav Ivanovic deflected home David Luiz’s driven shot in the 55th minute.
Sunderland had the first chance with only three minutes on the clock as Stephane Sessegnon burst into the area but blasted into Petr Cech’s side-netting when he could have elected to pull the ball back to Connor Wickham, who started in place of Danny Graham.
Kilgallon survived a couple of speculative home appeals for handball after two challenges with Demba Ba, the second of which coming as he slid in superbly to deny the Blues forward following a deflected Luiz free-kick.
The Black Cats then immediately launched a counter-attack, with Sessegnon finding Adam Johnson in acres of space on the right of the box. He cut back and curled a shot towards the top corner with his left foot, but only struck the face of the back-tracking Luiz.
Craig Gardner was perhaps fortunate only to be booked following a lunging challenge on Ba in the 25th minute which left Benitez shaking his head, but the Sunderland midfielder will now miss the next two games through suspension.
Stamford Bridge was silenced moments before the interval when Johnson’s well delivered corner, awarded after Luiz blocked a Wickham shot, was flicked on by John O’Shea and Azpilicueta could only slice the ball into his own net underneath the crossbar.
But the match was turned on its head at the very start of the second half as Fernando Torres, on for the injured Ba, drove at the Sunderland defence and slipped a pass to Oscar, whose poor first touch allowed Simon Mignolet to save only for the ball to strike the unfortunate Kilgallon and roll agonisingly home.
And it was 2-1 in the 55th minute as Wickham’s headed clearance from a corner was drilled back in by Luiz from the edge of the box with Ivanovic deflecting the ball home as it flew into the area.
Torres headed over when he could have done better after being teed up by Oscar following an excellent combination with Juan Mata, while Johnson curled a shot narrowly wide of Cech’s goal after being presented with possession by Luiz, who was limping after another Gardner challenge.
The Chelsea centre-back then left Wickham in a heap by the corner flag as he caught the Sunderland striker with his elbow, with the Black Cats unable to find a way back into the game and they remain deep in the mire ahead of next weekend’s derby date with Newcastle.