Sunderland were boosted by the presence of Max Power in the side that lined up against promotion rivals Barnsley after his five-game ban was overturned.
And the 25-year-old midfielder produced a composed display in the holding role of Jack Ross' new-look 4-3-1-2 system.
Power was shown his third red card of the season in the draw with Walsall at the weekend but the decision was overturned following a successful appeal to the FA on Monday and Power played a key role in Sunderland's 4-2 win over Barnsley.
Ross deployed the ex-Wigan Athletic man in a deeper role and praised his discipline and mentality.
"I was pleased for Max that he produced that type of performance," said Ross.
"He played in a different role, I asked him to be more disciplined - I don't mean disciplined in terms of not getting a caution, I mean where he is [positioned] on the pitch.
"He did it very well.
"It was a big ask for him physically too, he hasn't played many 90 minutes in recent times, credit to him and his mentality."
Skipper George Honeyman was arguably man of the match, Aiden McGeady, Adam Matthews and Josh Maja also playing a key role in the victory that kept Sunderland second and maintained their unbeaten run.
Maja made way for Luke O'Nien just before the hour mark and the former Wycombe Wanderers man made a big contribution, scoring the decisive fourth goal to kill off the game seven minutes from time.
His influence from the bench in recent weeks has been impressive and Ross has been impressed with his growing contribution.
Ross added: "I don't see him as an impact sub, far from it. We have had to manage him in a way he feels ever more comfortable in the environment.
"There are areas to improve on but he has a brilliant attitude and quality and he is a very good finisher, his desire to get in the box from the midfield position.
"Really pleased for him that he is making that contribution, he is a happy young man."