CHELSEA remain in firm control of their bid to finish in the top four after overturning a first half wobble to claim three points.
It needed an own goal and a lucky deflection to get the job done, but Rafael Benitez won't mind a bit, having enjoyed his happiest week in charge.
A different scrip looked possible before the second half got under way, as Chelsea's hopes of making it a hat-trick of home wins in seven days in three competitions were given a severe jolt just before the interval.
David Luiz blocked a Connor Wickham effort for a corner, but Adam Johnson's flag kick was met by a glancing near-post header from John O'Shea and a wrong-footed Cesar Azpilicueta only succeeded in turning the ball into his own net from three yards.
But two minutes into the second half, Torres – on for Demba Ba at the break – scampered down the left flank before cutting inside Danny Rose to tee up Oscar in front of goal. The Brazilian's shot was blocked by keeper Simon Mignolet, but the ball cannoned off the back-tracking Matt Kilgallon into the corner of the net.
Eight minutes later and the natural order was restored when a partially cleared corner fell invitingly to David Luiz on the edge of the area and although the defender did not connect properly, it cannoned into the net off Branislav Ivanovic (pictured).
Ba's departure may have had something to do with a hefty challenge he took from Craig Gardner midway through the first half. The Sunderland midfielder was yellow carded, but it coiuld easily have been a red, so reckless was the lunge.
Whatever the reason for the switch, Chelsea for once did not look inconvenienced by the introduction of a rejuvenated Torres – fresh from his fine display against Rubin Kazan on Thursday.
Sunderland arguably deserved the good fortune they had in establishing a first half lead. They defended solidly but also got forward in numbers at every opportunity, as new boss Paolo Di Canio had promised.
They also had the game's outstanding first half performer in Stephane Sessegnon, whose clever breaks from deep offered the relegation-threatened Wearsiders hope.
One of his passes gave Johnson an opening, which really should have been put away, but the former Man City winger betrayed a lack of confidence in hesitating before sending a weak curler into David Luiz.
At that stage, the Blues looked well off the pace, but even without being anywhere near their best, managed to rediscover enough zest in their game to turn it around.
Line up: Cech; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, David Luiz, Bertrand; Ramires, Mikel; Oscar, Mata (Lampard 89), Hazard (Benayoun 85); Ba (Torres h/t). Subs not used: Turnbull, Ferreira, Marin, Terry.