Jermain Defoe has praised the “unbelievable” Sunderland support and says it was vital the already-relegated Black Cats gave them something to cheer.
Sunderland were backed by 2,542 supporters at the KCOM Stadium, with the travelling support out-singing the home support for large periods of the 2-0 win over Hull City.
Defeat saw the Tigers slip back into the bottom three but there was nothing riding on the game from Sunderland’s perspective, given their Premier League fate had already been sealed seven days earlier.
With the pressure off, Sunderland produced a spirited display, winning 2-0 thanks to a diving header from Billy Jones and a Defoe tap-in in added-on time.
It ended a three-month run without a win for Sunderland and Defoe’s personal goal-drought - which had broken the 1,000-minute mark before he converted from close range.
Defoe said: “The support is unbelievable.
“From day one, I have said how important the fans are to this club, how special they are. It is amazing.
“We have been relegated but they still turn up and travel, we are lucky to have fans like that.
“It was important to put in a performance and win the game, which we did, so hopefully they were happy.
“I think that is the main thing, to give the fans something to smile about.
“It was a difficult situation to come into the game given the circumstances but the main thing was to give something back. We managed to do that.
“It is always nice to win football matches, I know it doesn’t matter now but at the end of the day it is nice to win football matches.”
Defoe now has 15 Premier League goals for the Black Cats this season, three shy of his best ever league haul back when he played for Tottenham Hotspur in the 2009-10 campaign.
Defoe admits his barren spell without a goal has been “tough” but insists he always knew it was only a matter of time before he was hitting the back of the net again.
Defoe added: “It has been tough.
“I have always said every player goes through it but you have to keep making the runs and get in the positions where you are going to score.
“You go through those spells but I have always felt sharp. It was just a matter of time before you start scoring again.”
Sunderland have three games of the Premier League campaign remaining, with Swansea City the visitors to the Stadium of Light on Saturday followed by away trips to Arsenal and title-chasing Chelsea in the final week of the season.
With Sunderland relegated to the Championship after a ten-year spell in the top flight, Defoe says the main focus is on gaining promotion back to the Premier League as quickly as possible.
Defoe added: “The main thing is to bounce back. That is the focus for the football club to get the club back in the Premier League. It is a massive club.
“The fans will turn up, every home game will be packed. We are frustrated as players, obviously.
“Having been there before and managing to stay up but our luck ran out this time.
“At Hull we played well, everyone stuck together.
“You don’t always know how the fans are going to react but they were brilliant and credit to them,” he told the club website.