Kevin Kyle scored a dramatic late winner to secure a fourth successive home league victory for reinvigorated Sunderland and keep Mick McCarthy's team climbing the First Division table.
The Scotland international rose high to head in a cross from the man of the match, John Oster, after 84 minutes of a pulsating encounter.
It is a measure of football's fickle fortunes that both these clubs had been slugging it out in the Premiership less than 18 months ago. A 5-0 win at Portman Road proved insufficient to save Ipswich from relegation last year and Sunderland followed them down in May.
The revived Wearsiders have since made a case for a speedy return by amassing 16 points from seven games, but it was Ipswich who almost took the lead after 18 minutes when a Jim Magilton chip struck the top of the bar with goalkeeper Mart Poom stranded.
It was the closest either side came in an evenly contested opening spell. The absence of Sunderland's key midfielders Paul Thirlwell and Sean Thornton restricted the service to the front men, Marcus Stewart and Kyle, who paid for his frustration with a 31st-minute caution for dissent.
Darren Bent had looked the most dangerous player on the pitch and played a key part in Ipswich's opening goal after 35 minutes with an angled shot that was turned into his own net by Gary Breen. There was some dispute over the scorer, but Breen clearly got the final touch, even though he would not want to claim it.
The Republic of Ireland defender made amends, however, when he bundled in a 43rd-minute equaliser from close range after Oster headed on Julio Arca's free-kick.
Sunderland were lifted by their equaliser and Stewart posed a threat to his old club with a shot that had to be turned away for a corner. That led to the Wearsiders taking the lead after 48 minutes, Oster nabbing his second in successive games from point- blank range after Thomas Butler knocked Jeff Whitley's cross precisely into his path.
But two minutes later, Sunderland's premature celebrations were cut short when the centre-back Richard Naylor levelled for Ipswich with a 10-yard header from Magilton's corner.
Sunderland (4-4-2) Poom, Williams, Breen, McCartney, Arca; Oster, Whitley, Healy, Butler (T Smith, 73); Kyle, Stewart (Proctor, 86). Substitutes not used: Ingham, Bjorklund, Leadbitter.
Ipswich (4-4-2) Davis, Wilnis, Naylor, Santos, Richards; Wright, Magilton, Bart-Williams, Bent; Kuqi (Armstrong, 70), Counago (Mahon, 52). Substitutes not used: Price, Bowditch, Mahon, Nash.
Referee: S Mathieson (Cheshire).Reuse content