Nigel Clough hailed Sunderland's 'absolutely remarkable' record of losing only twice in the league this season.
Clough's Burton played out a frenetic 1-1 draw with the Black Cats on Tuesday night, a result that saw the Black Cats climb into second.
The last time Clough had visited the city he was born in, his side secured the win that confirmed Sunderland's relegation to the third tier.
He said he had been impressed with their revival under Jack Ross and backed them to stay in the top two.
"To have lost two league games? Absolutely remarkable," he said.
"Remarkable. They're on their way back up, certainly.
"Whether it be automatic or through the play-offs, but I think it will be automatic now, they're on the way back.
"I think [they'll go up] because of here [Stadium of Light].
"I think their home form will see them over the line.
"I've just seen Barnsley on Saturday, and they're a very, very good team as well. It's going to be tight but I think their support will get them over the line.
"We were saying on Saturday, when you're at Rochdale, 89 minutes gone, 1-1, when you've got 4,000 people cheering you on, that's what gets you the goal."
Clough was pleased with his side's effort in what was an open contest.
Sunderland hit the woodwork twice and saw Charlie Wyke miss a golden opportunity in the first half, but Burton threatened throughout and drew some vital saves from Jon McLaughlin.
"We knew it would be tough," he said.
"We didn't want to sit back, I was a little bit disappointed in the first half that we didn't play the way that we can.
"I thought for that spell of 25 minutes in the second half, that's how we can play.
"It was nice to be able to do that because this time next season we want to be challenging ourselves.
"It's a good draw for both teams I think," he added.
"I don't think either team deserved to lose. The only mystery was how there was only two goals in the game. It could have been one of those 4-4 sort of games tonight, there was enough chances for both teams.
"When you take all that into account a draw is fair."
Nigel, son of Sunderland legend Brian, admitted that it was special to come back to the north east.
He joked that it was a night in which the famous goalscorer could have filled his boots.
"Every time [it means something]," he said.
"Every time you come to the north east, Middlesbrough, Sunderland.
"I was just talking to the gentleman there [Sunderland steward] and he said, 'I can remember watching your dad play, he would have enjoyed the game tonight'.
"I said he would have done but you know what he'd have said, 'If I was playing tonight I'd have scored four!' And he would have done."