LONDON, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Sunderland can beat the odds and stay up despite being bottom of the Premier League at Christmas, manager Gus Poyet said after an emphatic 4-1 win at fellow strugglers Fulham on Saturday.
Propping up the table on Dec. 25 almost always leads to relegation, with only West Bromwich Albion making a great escape in 2005, but after Adam Johnson's hat-trick on Saturday hoisted Sunderland off the bottom, Poyet said they are up for the fight.
"It was an outstanding performance," the Uruguayan told the BBC. "If we can retain that level then we can stay up. We needed something special and got it today.
"The lads were superb, you do not score four goals away from home many times in your life.
"Adam Johnson was exceptional with his passing, his creativity and everything he did today. He needs the ball and the chance to pass it.",
Johnson, signed in 2012 from Manchester City, has slipped from the limelight and is no longer talked about as an England player despite 11 caps for his country.
However, his performance on Saturday which included a 25-metre free kick and a penalty, was a reminder of why he was once one of the most sought-after young players in Britain.
"I've been working hard and at the beginning of the year I said this was a new year, a new start and time to get back to how I had been playing in the past," he said.
"It was a massive win for us and there will be a few people looking over their shoulders. Everyone said we were adrift but we showed we could be a force."
Sunderland have 17 points from 21 games and are above bottom club Crystal Palace on goal difference. Cardiff City and West Ham United both have 18 points. (Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)