April 28 (Reuters) - Sunderland manager Gus Poyet was left close to achieving a miracle after his side climbed out of the relegation places for the first time since February in the latest twist of "the most strange, incredible and unexpected season."
Poyet's side thrashed fellow Premier League strugglers Cardiff City 4-0 at the Stadium of Light on Sunday to leave them in control of their own destiny with three games remaining and the Welsh side rooted to the bottom of the table.
Sunderland now have 32 points, ahead of Norwich City on goal difference, with Fulham on 31 and Cardiff on 30 with the bottom trio all having played a game more than Poyet's team.
Sunderland next face a trip to Manchester United before finishing with home games against West Bromwich Albion and Swansea City with six points required to stay up.
A remarkable turn around for Sunderland and Poyet, who took over from Italian Paolo Di Canio in October with the club having achieved only one point from their first seven matches.
"We've done everything and we've done nothing," Poyet was quoted as saying by British media on Monday. "We've put ourselves in a great position but everything can change.
"Let's see if I'm here in two weeks telling you miracles happen."
Earlier this month, Poyet said he was a realist and that his side needed a miracle to stay up after four successive defeats, including a 5-1 tanking by Tottenham Hotspur, left them marooned at the foot of the table.
But they took a point at title chasing Manchester City and then became the first side to inflict a home defeat on Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho to give them renewed hope before downing Cardiff to make it seven points out of a possible nine.
Striker Connor Wickham, who was sent out on loan to Championship (second tier) Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United earlier in the campaign, has scored five goals in those three matches to spark the fightback and Poyet acknowledged his influence.
"We talk about miracles but this team needed a shock and Connor has provided it. Connor's changing everything," said the Uruguayan, who also steered the club to the League Cup final.
"It's the most strange, incredible and unexpected season I've experienced in my entire career."
The tall England under-21 striker, signed by former manager Steve Bruce in 2011 from Ipswich Town, believed that an all-round improved team display was the reason behind their revival.
"The team performed well today. We created a lot of chances and defended right from the back from the goalkeeper all the way through to the forwards so I think we deserved what we got," he told the Sunderland Echo.
Wickham opened the scoring before being pulled back by defender Juan Cala with the referee allow play to continue and the attack to break down before going back to award the hosts a penalty and send off the Cardiff player.
Fabio Borini scored the penalty and Poyet hailed the referee's decision which left Cardiff's players and staff incensed and the game over.
"It was a foul and a red card and it's the best decision I've ever seen from a referee in my life," said Poyet, whose side added further goals in the second half through Emanuele Giaccherini and Wickham.
"This sort of refereeing will stop players going down too easily." (Writing by Patrick Johnston; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)