Martin O'Neill believes Sunderland will go into their tough festive fixtures boosted by a "massive" win at fellow strugglers Southampton.
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Steven Fletcher's strike three minutes before half-time proved the difference on the south coast as the Black Cats held out for a 1-0 win in difficult conditions at St Mary's.
It was a performance that pleased O'Neill, whose side now face tough matches in quick succession against Manchester City, Tottenham and Liverpool.
"In the last three games, we've been able to win two games against sides beside us at this moment," he said, referring to the 3-0 defeat of Reading and this victory.
"It has been a tough old season right from the start and I just feel that win today, obviously before Christmas and with the programme we have coming up in the next three games, is massive for us.
"We got a bit of confidence from that, although we have a fair few games to go. The game was very tight as I expected it to be. Southampton are in really good form, particularly here, and they are on a good run at the moment.
"It is hard to say but I think we got a bit of confidence from the second-half performance at Old Trafford [last weekend despite losing 3-1 to Manchester United].
"I thought we took it into the game and started brilliantly, with Stephane Sessegnon having a great shot and the goalkeeper making a great save.
"Then the game started to develop into a bit of a pattern, with attacks by Southampton and a couple of counter-attacks by ourselves, so it was important to get the first goal.
"We got it at a great time in the game and then dealt with a second-half onslaught, which was expected.
"Southampton tried to break us down and put a few balls into the box, but I thought we dealt with them pretty okay."
Summer signing Fletcher proved the difference at St Mary's, sweeping home a ball from the left to earn three points for Sunderland.
"Fletcher has been fantastic for us, really fantastic," O'Neill said.
"It looks like Sessegnon has miskicked it, thank God. He should score more goals but I am glad he left it or 'passed' it to Fletcher.
"His contribution to the club this season has been immense. It is not just that he scores a goal or two for us, but they have been big goals."
Southampton manager Nigel Adkins, meanwhile, was left frustrated as his side failed to get going after a two-week break.
"It just didn't happen for us today," he said. "For me, it was uncharacteristically flat for whatever reason.
"Obviously I will digest that and with the goal we conceded just before half-time, there are two or three people that could have done better in stopping the goal.
"That has obviously given Sunderland something to hang onto in the second half and, to give them credit, they defended well.
"We tried to change things around early to give ourselves an opportunity to increase the tempo, find a way forward, stretch the game to create openings, but unfortunately we haven't scored any goals."
Southampton looking devoid of ideas going forward without influential captain Adam Lallana, who picked up a knee injury against Reading last time out.
"It can't be about one player," Adkins said. "Every team is going to have players that are missing.
"You have got to have a strong enough group of players that can go and contribute. Who is to say if Adam had played it would have been any different?
"We played Gaston Ramirez on the left-hand side, where he plays for Uruguay and does that very well. We can't just turn around and say that losing one player caused the result."