City crashed to their eighth consecutive league loss on the road on Saturday, humbled 3-1 by bottom-of-the-league Cowdenbeath.
Trailing 2-0 at the break, the Black and Whites brought on Sutherland as sub for his first game in over a year following a cruciate ligament operation.
The former Caley Thistle and Peterhead striker took just five minutes to mark his return with a glorious left foot curling finish on the hour to throw City a lifeline.
Elgin then chased an equaliser but were caught out by a third home goal which killed the contest late on.
It was Cowdenbeath's first victory in seven months and only their second of the league campaign.
City are now rank outsiders in the race for the play-offs and must pick up the pieces at home to Stirling Albion on Tuesday night to keep their slim hopes alive.
Ladbrokes League 2 table pic.twitter.com/3dIfhHmzjr— SPFL (@spfl) 17 March 2018
However manager Gavin Price has two fresh injuries to contend with.
On-loan Dundee United goalkeeper Brett Long came off at the break at Cowdenbeath with a dead leg, and was replaced by Marc Waters.
More seriously, midfielder Thomas Reilly played on with an eye injury which has since swollen heavily, and he is a doubt for Tuesday.
Wingers Chris Dodd and Ali Sutherland are already out.
Today’s SPFL results pic.twitter.com/3vHmrlT7r1— SPFL (@spfl) 17 March 2018