Gus Poyet believes he faced a mission impossible at Sunderland, but has warned his players not to relax after edging towards safety.
Poyet replaced Paolo Di Canio as Sunderland's boss in October and was plunged into an immediate survival fight, with the club in danger of being cut adrift in the drop zone.
The arrival of the Uruguayan appears to have rejuvenated the Black Cats, who have moved to within two points of safety after a five-game unbeaten run in all competitions.
Poyet is glad the club's position has improved in recent weeks, but insists there is plenty of work to be done in 2014 if Sunderland are to beat the drop.
"A few weeks or a few months ago, people were looking at the table and thinking it was impossible, and now we are there, so we have to make sure we don't stop and don't get complacent because we have done nothing," he said.
"Of course, we have done something important, but in reality it's nothing because it's all about what is coming next."
Sunderland fought back from two goals down to secure a crucial 2-2 draw with Cardiff on Saturday.
Poyet accepts that his struggling side will endure difficult periods in games, but feels they have learned to dig deep when it matters.
He said: "What I am seeing is that, even if we are having a bad spell during the game, we are going to have the other side of the coin and we are going to have a good spell, and if in that spell we take advantage and we score, we are going to be in a position to win games.
"And it works the other way around. When you are not having your best time, make sure you don't lose the whole game and concede three or four, so it's a balance.
"Would I like more control for the whole game? Yes, but the games where we have had control, especially West Ham, we didn't score, so that's football.
"You need to analyse how it is, but not go too deep because you know you become crazy."
What will be the outcome in the match Sunderland vs Aston Villa?