Saints, still smarting from defeats by Chelsea and Bournemouth, were first to threaten when Wahbi Khazri was booked for a foul on Sadio Mane and Ryan Bertrand whipped an inswinging free-kick just over Vito Mannone’s bar.
However, there was no suggestion in the opening exchanges that Southampton could get anywhere near the eight goals they put past the Black Cats without reply in the St Mary’s meeting between the teams last season.
It was a generally scrappy contest even though it took a smart save from Mannone to keep out an effort from Tadic after Graziano Pelle created the opening in the 27th minute.
Sunderland went even closer to the opener five minutes later when Khazri sent over a free-kick from the left that deceived Fraser Forster.
But the keeper just managed to get enough on it to turn it on to a post with Lamine Kone hitting the rebound over the bar.
And Black Cats midfielder Jack Rodwell also missed a clear chance, volleying wide from a Patrick van Aanholt cross.