Fabio Borini, a 69th-minute replacement for Adam Johnson, won the game for the home side in thrilling style when he smashed an unstoppable shot past Tim Krul from Jozy Altidore's lay-off to finally kick-start Sunderland's season.
But with derby specialist Shola Ameobi, who has seven goals against the Black Cats to his name, having been thrown into the fray, it was fellow replacement Borini who stole the headlines.
Pardew was unhappy with a free-kick awarded by referee Lee Probert for Cheick Tiote's challenge on Fletcher in the lead-up to the goal and he said: "When we got the equaliser, the more the game went on the more control we got.
"We had two or three good chances, I thought, at 1-1 and if we got the second goal, the game was over because they would have been dead.
"Unfortunately for us, we didn't get that second goal. Unfortunately, the referee played a part in this defeat as well because that was definitely not a free-kick in my opinion.
"The linesman gave us a throw, the ref gave a foul and I think one or two of ours switched off.
"They certainly didn't think there was a foul, the boys, and then they just slipped through us and the one chance they had second half, he smashed it in, so it's a really tough one for us to take."