Fabio Borini says a 5-1 defeat at Tottenham was the "punch in the face" that sparked Sunderland's escape from relegation.
The April 7 hammering at White Hart Lane was a seventh defeat in eight Premier League games and left Sunderland seven points from safety with just seven games to play.
Gus Poyet famously claimed after the Spurs game Sunderland needed "a miracle" to stay up, and when Wednesday's win against West Brom secured survival the manager said: "No doubt about it, I believe in them now!"
Sunderland's escape is all the more remarkable given their run of 13 points from 15 included away trips to Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United.
And on-loan Liverpool forward Borini told Sky Sports News: "If in the future I tell my grandson we got safe against Man City, Chelsea and Man United away, he won't believe me.
"The peak of the negative was the 5-1 against Tottenham. That probably gave us a punch in the face to wake up, and because everyone was thinking we were dead and relegated we played with less pressure."
Borini was brought to Wearside under previous manager Paolo Di Canio and says his own future will be down to what Liverpool decide this summer.
In the meantime, the Italian has praised Poyet's role in rescuing a team which was bottom of the table with a single point when he was appointed.
"He has had a great impact," Borini said. "He changed our style of play, and we built up confidence by playing the way he wants us to play.
"That made all the difference, especially at the end of the season when probably everyone thought we were dead.
"We showed that with good football, solid and compact we can achieve good results."
Perhaps the pick of those was last month's win at Chelsea which ended manager Jose Mourinho's record of 77 unbeaten Premier League matches at home.
Borini said: "It's incredibly satisfying. We made good records this season, even if it wasn't a really positive season.
"We went to Wembley (for the Capital One Cup final) for the first time in the new stadium, and we beat Chelsea after 77 games. It's been a season mostly of negatives, but we got good records that everyone in Sunderland will remember."