Felipe Gutierrez's second-half header was the difference between the two struggling teams at MAPFRE Stadium.
Sporting's win was just their fourth in 16 MLS games this season as they climbed into ninth in the Western Conference, while Columbus – who finished with 10 men – are 10th in the east.
After a poor first half, Peter Vermes' Sporting took the lead early in the second through Gutierrez.
Gerso Fernandes did brilliantly on the right side of the area before crossing for an unmarked Gutierrez to head in from close range.
Columbus' chances of a comeback were dealt a huge blow in the 74th minute, Harrison Afful sent off for bringing down Gerso and denying the attacker an obvious goalscoring opportunity as Sporting ended its four-game winless run in all competitions.