Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill believes the FA Cup third round draw against Bolton helped to build the foundation for his side's emphatic win over West Ham on Saturday.
Sunderland, who are preparing to face Bolton tomorrow night in the replay at the Stadium of Light, came from two goals down to draw 2-2 against the Trotters, knowing a tie against Everton was at stake.
The Black Cats then took the fighting spirit from the second half at the Reebok Stadium and used it to brush aside West Ham in their Barclays Premier League clash on Wearside last weekend.
The three points helped to ease their relegation fears and O'Neill was quick to laud the spirit shown against Bolton as the catalyst for the much-improved performance.
``The difference between our performance against West Ham and Bolton was obviously day and night,'' O'Neill told reporters.
``We started sluggishly against Bolton and I don't think we can afford to do that, but against West Ham we started strongly and the most pleasing aspect for me was that we kept it going.
``For the most part, we were terrific.
``Our second-half performance against Bolton in the cup helped cement that. It gave us that lift, not only that we were still in the cup but the players felt that now they could move on.''
Despite now having home advantage for the third round replay, O'Neill is refusing to take Bolton lightly and expects to field a team not too dissimilar from the side who impressed against the Hammers.
``We started brightly against West Ham and played well in that game but it means absolutely nothing now,'' O'Neill said.
``We play Bolton which will be a big test for us and they will think they have as good a chance as we have of playing Everton in the next round.
``Bolton's record in the cup has been very good in recent years and I think they will feel they are capable of winning the game.
``They certainly felt that during the last match. We've got home advantage at this moment and the crowd behind us and we will go into the game with plenty of confidence, but going into the game with confidence is no guarantee of anything.
``It's not something I would like to be making wholesale changes for because we're not in a position to be able to do that and we would like to treat the competition with some respect.''
Dougie Freedman hopes jealously can inspire Bolton to an FA Cup upset at the second time of asking.
Wanderers took a 2-0 lead in the original third-round match at the Reebok Stadium nine days ago, only to be pegged back by goals from Connor Wickham and Craig Gardner in the final half-hour.
``To play these games against Premier League teams just reminds the lads what we're missing,'' said the former Crystal Palace boss.
``It's always good - I feel it just shows them we're jealous of where they (the opposition) are and want to get back up there as soon as possible. It's a little reminder of what we're missing out on.''
Bolton appear to be in a transitional phase during the opening months of Freeman's reign, after the 38-year-old Scot replaced compatriot Owen Coyle at the end of October.
Saturday's 1-1 draw with Millwall leaves the pre-season promotion favourites 16th in the npower Championship - 10 points shy of the play-off places and eight above the relegation zone.
By contrast, Martin O'Neill's Sunderland secured a fourth win in seven league outings by brushing aside West Ham 3-0 at the weekend, but Freedman remains bullish about his side's prospects
``It'll be tough but, listen, football's tough,'' he said. ``If you've not got thick skin then you might as well step out of this game because it's a tough environment where you've got to match teams that are not going to give you an inch.
``We feel in the first game we played very well for 70 minutes against a Premier League side. We were 2-0 up and I felt that we possibly deserved to take the game.
``We'll go up there full of confidence knowing that if we produce what we produced at home then we've got a chance of winning this game.''