Jack Ross believes the League One automatic promotion battle will go to the wire, as Sunderland closed the gap on the top two.
Sunderland beat Gillingham 4-2 at the Stadium of Light to end a run of draws.
The Black Cats moved above Portsmouth into third place on 62 points, just four off Barnsley with a game in hand.
It was a good night for Ross’ side with second placed Barnsley dropping points, the Tykes drew 0-0 at home to Burton Albion.
Portsmouth dropped more points with a 1-1 home draw with Bristol Rovers. Ross thinks the race for automatic promotion will go down to the wire.
“I would be surprised if it didn’t,” said Ross.
“The teams in the top five or six positions are all good sides, there is little between them. Luton are in a good position but have to keep producing.
“It is a tough league to batter out results.”
On the other results last night in the race for promotion, Ross said: “I don’t really pay too much attention to the other games, we can only affect our performance and result.
“It is another example of how tough this league is. I have said that consistently.
“Every other team challenging for promotion will find it the same.
“I won’t get too carried away on the high of us winning and other results. It is amazing how different it feels though, we can highlight the fact we have scored again in a league game, not lost again in this stadium.
“All of these things become relevant, two or three days ago they weren’t. We have to retain our focus.
“The performance level has been better, we have been searching for that and we got our just rewards.”
Ross was also full of praise for the Sunderland fans, thanking them for their patience as the Black Cats bounced back from back-to-back disappointing home draws against Blackpool and Accrington Stanley with a fine win over Gillingham.
He added: “The players put a lot into the three games, a bit frustrating to only take five from nine but the performance level and amount of chances created has been good.”