Gustavo Poyet warned his Sunderland players "we have done nothing" after another twist in "the most strange, incredible and unexpected season I have known".
The Wearsiders beat Cardiff City 4-0 to move out of the bottom three with three matches remaining.
They have a game in hand over the three sides below them.
Incredibly, it was their first win this season over any of the teams in the Premier League’s bottom half.
That is especially significant as their last two matches are against West Bromwich Albion and Swansea City – who fall into the same category.
Although Sunderland were leading at the time through Connor Wickham’s 27th-minute header, the decisive moment was Phil Dowd’s decision to award a penalty and send Juan Cala off for a foul on the striker in first-half added time.
Wickham stayed on his feet and Dowd allowed play to continue when the Spaniard failed to pull him down.
Then when David Marshall forced the 21-year-old wide of goal, he pointed to the spot.
Poyet said: “It is the best decision I have seen from a referee in my life. Simple as that.
“If you really want to stop players going down easily this is the way. So all the credit to Phil Dowd.
“We have all wanted this but for some reason it was not possible.
“The Matt Jarvis incident has helped us, because since then we have been talking about this kind of thing.
“So it is play the game because the referee will back you. It was a foul, a red card, the best decision I have ever seen.
“The game changed on the sending-off and the penalty, but we were doing what we planned.
“We were winning everything and the stadium was incredible.”
West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce and Sky pundit Gary Neville both criticised Hammers winger Jarvis for not going down under a challenge from Bacary Sagna in this month’s game against Arsenal.
Fabio Borini converted the penalty and Sunderland were able to close out victory in the second half with goals from substitute Emanuele Giaccherini and another from Wickham, his fifth in three games.
Now, with a vastly superior goal difference, the Wearsiders know they can secure their Premier League survival simply by matching the points tally Norwich City take from games at Chelsea and at home to Arsenal.
After such a ridiculous season, though, thinks are unlikely to be so straight-forward.
Poyet added: “We have done everything we can but we have done nothing.
“There are still games to play and everything can change.
“We have put ourselves in the best position possible.
“It didn’t look good (two weeks ago). There was talk of miracles, but let’s see if I am telling you miracles happen in two weeks’ time.
“It has been the most strange, incredible and unexpected season I have known.
“It was our time. The way we started the game 11 v 11 the pressure we had, and the fans’ noise, they were the key, then scoring that first goal.
“We have momentum. We’ve been on a bad run for a while, now we have great momentum. Confidence too is a word we use a lot.
“We give ourselves the biggest opportunity we could dream about. We have to finish it.”
Wickham has been a revelation for Sunderland, providing the cutting edge to their football last seen when Adam Johnson hit his straps at the turn of the year.
Poyet said: “I talk about shocks. Not electric, but kind of fromConnor.
“He scored two headers, which is important for a striker for his size. His first was top, top level.
“Connor needed a run of games. In football there are players who say, ‘Give me five games.’
“We are getting the breaks at the right time. It is easy to pick the team now. Credit to the players.”
Cardiff manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted the decision to send Cala off was pivotal, but refused to criticise Dowd.
He said: “I’m not the type of person who sits here and complains about referee decisions.
“It is a hard enough job as it is being a referee, but of course when you go in after a decent half when you’ve kept them quiet, but coming in 2-0 down and down to 10 men and you have to come out and win the game, it made it very difficult.”