Richard Ord struck in the 73rd minute, his bullet header from Martin Smith's right-wing corner beating Russell Hoult's despairing dive. Then Craig Russell, last season's leading goalscorer but struggling to hold down a regular place in the Premiership, raced clear from Paul Bracewell's shrewd pass to put the issue beyond doubt in the 87th minute.
Sunderland needed the calming influence of assistant manager Bracewell to cool tempers, while Derby looked to veteran central defender Paul McGrath to keep the home side at bay.
Chances were few and far between although Hoult was easily the busier of the two goalkeepers. He saved in style from Smith and Alex Rae and when beaten by Ord's 35th-minute effort from Smith's corner, Chris Powell came to the rescue with a goal-line clearance.
Lionel Perez dived full length to deny Sean Flynn but Derby, lacking the creativity of Croatian Aljosa Asanovic, rarely threatened.
The game left Sunderland with selection worries. They lost skipper Kevin Ball at half-time and Reid reported: "It looks as though Kevin has fractured his jaw and Gareth Hall has pulled a calf muscle. We are going to be stretched at the back for the next few weeks. Kevin Ball just wins things and the fact he stayed on for more than 20 minutes says everything about him."
Reid paid a tribute to his players for bouncing back from their heaviest defeat of his Sunderland managerial career at Old Trafford.
Derby manager Jim Smith defended his decision to leave out Asanovic. He said: "He's not used to playing so many games.
"It was a tactical decision, I want him for our homes games. It was just a battle and I always thought whoever scored the first goal would win it."
Sunderland: Perez, Hall (Gray, 86), Melville, Ord, Kubicki, Kelly, Ball (Agnew, 45), Bracewell, Rae, Smith, Russell. Substitutes not used: Bridges, Stewart, Preece (gk).
Derby County: Hoult, Rowett, C. Powell, D. Powell, Stimac (Yates, 75), Sturridge, Ward (Gabbiadini, 79), Laursen, Flynn (Carsley, 86), Dailly, McGrath. Substitutes not used: Trollope, Taylor (gk).
Referee: J T Winter (Stockton On Tees).Reuse content