Jack Ross believes Charlton Athletic's form means it is now a five-horse race for automatic promotion.
Ross marked out Lee Bowyer's side as a potential threat for the top four last week, before they went to secure a stunning 3-1 win over Luton Town.
They are now just three points off second and have a favourable run-in, though they have played a game more than Sunderland and Portsmouth.
Ross believes it is a reflection of the strength at the top of the league this year.
Remarkably, Charlton's current points haul of 79 would already have been enough to guarantee them fourth spot in this division last year.
"I've thought [they're in the mix] that for a while," he said.
"I just looked at their form, where they were, I also just think they're a good team.
"They're all good sides at the top and there's very little between them.
"I don't know if it's just a freak year but you've got five teams at the moment where there's little between them," he added.
"You add Doncaster and Peterborough into that, they're good sides who just maybe haven't been as consistent.
"The top five certainly are good teams with really good individual players, who've found ways of winning games."
The excellent form of Charlton and Portsmouth has added to the tension of the run-in ahead of two crunch matchdays this weekend.
Ross, though, does not believe it adds any pressure on a Sunderland side he says have had to play through intense scrutiny all season.
"I don't think it changes anything for us," he said.
"We've had pressure on us all season, probably the most in the top five.
"The other teams have probably quite enjoyed that, that the focus by and large has been on us.
"Incorrectly to a degree, in my view, but if I was one of the other teams I'd be quite happy with that.
"Our position is no different to the other four, all five know that they have to keep winning games."