Roy Keane has tipped Preston North End for the Premiership next season after The Lilywhites completed a double over Sunderland this season.
David Nugent scored the only goal of the game on 36 minutes as The Black Cats succumbed to the second-placed Championship side at The Stadium of Light.
The Black Cats' mounting injury problems were not aided by captain Steve Caldwell's thigh injury and full-back Nyron Nosworthy's hamstring problem.
Keane has been typically magnanimous in his praise of the opposition, and expects to see them in the top flight in the near future.
"Preston have a great chance of winning promotion. They are well organised and they make it very hard for you," Keane explained.
"I think David Nugent will score goals in the Premiership. But we are down to the bare bones. The injuries today prove we have to add to the squad.
"We will get some lads back next week who have been out on loan and I hope to bring a few new ones in during the transfer window.
"I am disappointed that we didn't get anything out of the game but we conceded a sloppy goal and got punished for it. "
Preston boss Paul Simpson meanwhile praised his players for the fight they showed following the 4-2 defeat at West Bromwich Albion on Boxing Day.
"The work rate of the players was excellent," he said.
"We deserved to win and I told the players before the game that we had to get back to being hard to beat and to be as ugly as they wanted to be.
"They defended excellently, had bodies on the line, but to be fair we restricted them to very few efforts on goal. I knew this would be a big test for us and we have come through it.
"I did not speak to Roy before the game about Tommy Miller (who is on loan to Preston from Sunderland) in case he stopped him from playing but I will certainly be having a word now about keeping him - I thought he was terrific in what must have been difficult circumstances for him."