For wireless multimedia sensor networks a distributed cross-layer framework is proposed, which not only achieves an optimal tradeoff between network lifetime and its utility but also provides end-to-end delay-margin. The delay-margin, defined as the gap between maximum end-to-end delay threshold and the actual end-to-end delay incurred by the network, is exploited by the application layer to achieve any desired level of delay quality-of-service. For optimal performance tradeoff an appropriate objective function for delay-margin is required, which is obtained by employing sensitivity analysis. Sensitivity analysis is performed by incorporating delay-margin in the end-to-end delay constraints while penalizing its price in the objective function. For distributed realization of proposed cross-layer framework, the optimal tradeoff problem is decomposed into network lifetime, utility and delay-margin subproblems coupled through dual variables. The numerical results for performance evaluation show that compromising network utility does not guarantee both lifetime and delay-margin improvement, simultaneously, for the set of operating points. Performance evaluation results also reveal that the fairness among different delay-margins, corresponding to different source-destination node pairs, can be improved by relaxing the end-to-end delay threshold. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.