The Canaries looked to be cruising when a second goal in eight days from former Newcastle United defender Sebastien Bassong and a smart finish from Pilkington gave the home side a well-deserved two-goal lead.
But Craig Gardner pulled one back just before the break for Sunderland, only for a combination of poor finishing and fine rearguard action from Norwich to deny them an equaliser that had seemed to be coming.
And while Pilkington acknowledged Norwich made life difficult for themselves, he was delighted they ground out a victory which stretched their unbeaten run in the Premier League to eight matches.
"I think first half we were brilliant. We passed the ball really well and we've scored two good goals and right at the end of the first half we've conceded a sloppy goal," Pilkington told Sky Sports 1.
"We didn't think they were in it too much and it's made the second half difficult. But we've shown how strong we are again.
"It's a massive win for us and I think we're eight unbeaten now. We're picking up a lot of points so we're going in the right direction.
"It's a good place to be at the moment."
Norwich goalkeeper Mark Bunn perhaps should have done better with Gardner's effort after getting both hands to the ball.
"I got my fingertips to it but maybe I should have kept it out. That happens in football and I just bounced back in the second half and managed to make a few good saves," Bunn said.
Yet Bunn, who is being given a run of games due to first-choice goalkeeper John Ruddy's injury, prospered in the second half, making several fine saves to protect Norwich's lead.
"I was delighted with my performance. It's good to get a couple of saves and I'm getting a run in the team now so I want to take my chance," he added.
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