Gus Poyet believes Sunderland are turning into a defensive mean machine and hailed the impact of Wes Brown and Phil Bardsley in steadying the ship.
The Black Cats have conceded just twice in three Premier League games since their 4-0 hammering at Swansea and their clean-sheet in Poyet’s “best ever win” was the most satisfying part of a day when Sunderland pulled off a shock win.
It is all part of Poyet’s plan for the Black Cats, which has focused on transforming the back four before turning them into an attacking force.
He said: “That’s the most important part of the game today.
“I know people want to see a team attacking and creating chances, but when you are too open you are going to give chances to the opposition, especially this side who have done incredible things in the last two games. I think the second-half against Hull gave us the feeling that we can defend.
“Even with just nine men, we were putting ourselves on the line and putting bodies in front of the ball.
“It showed everything you need to do, the concentration and belief required to defend properly. We need to do it all the time and you need to be convinced it is possible.
“Sometimes, as a manager, you need things to happen in a game for the players to go home and think, ‘It is a different way, but maybe it works’. We need to keep going.
“The feeling when we are playing at home now is going to be completely different.
“We have won three games in a row, two in the Premier League and one in the cup, and that should give us the home strength which is so important if you are going to stay up.”
Bardsley’s notched a smart first- half winner – his second in two games – to give Sunderland their win.
It was the latest chance for him to rehabilitate his reputation and Poyet feels he should get some credit for his strength of mind.
He added: “You must give him credit. When I asked everybody to give him a second chance, I know for sure there were thousands of people who were unconvinced,.
“Yet when you score a winner against Man City and play full-back the way he did, I’m sure there are a few who will change their mind and say, ‘Okay, let’s give him a second chance.
“He deserves that because he has proved he cares and he wants to play for this club, which is very important.
“The approach from me to him was very different to what happened before.
“I tried to put that aside and be myself with him. He came, we had a chat and everything was clear. He knows he has a chance and he needs to take it. It is up to him.”
The other star of the show was centre-back Brown, who was immense for Sunderland as they blocked out a five-star Manchester City attack.
His fitness is going to play a major part in Sunderland’s survival fight and Poyet admits keeping him fit is “key”.
He added: “Maybe he was the key to the clean sheet and the difference between conceding or not.
“Maybe that’s the different level of a player who has won the Premier League. He can see things before the rest.
“It was not easy to keep him out because I know Wes was desperate to get back, but as a staff and manager especially, you have to make decisions.
“We kept him out and he played in the under-21s. We put him on the bench and then because of the two red cards, he jumped in. Then, it was up to him. He played 90 minutes in midweek against Southampton and was strong and clever when he passed the ball.
“I don’t know how he is going to be tonight after another 90 but he has time to recover. The key now is to keep him fit.”