Chris Hughton says Brighton and Hove Albion are stronger for their Championship heartache last season.
The club lead the division after overtaking Newcastle United yesterday after a 3-0 home win over Queens Park Rangers.
Brighton are two points ahead of Rafa Benitez's side, who take on Nottingham Forest at St James's Park on Friday night.
Hughton's team missed out on automatic promotion last season because of goal difference.
And the former United manager feels that painful experience has strengthened the resolve of his players.
"There's a resilience (in the squad), no doubt," said Hughton, who guided Newcastle out of the Championship in the 2009-10 season.
"It's come from the experience of last season, and we also recruited well in the summer. I think we're stronger as a squad than last season, and there's a real desire at this club at the moment.
"We're also very conscious of how difficult this league is, and how tough these games are, but at the moment we're doing very well."
Brighton entertain Cardiff City on Friday night.
Reflecting on the QPR win, Hughton told Sky Sports: "It was a big win for us, but it's only the first in this mini-series of three games and we certainly weren't at our best today, particularly in the first half.
"But we found a way to win the game, and Sam Baldock's goal set us off on the right (path).
"There was a period in the first half where QPR used the ball well, and worked it through the thirds very well, and we were desperate not to concede.
"What we can do is find a way of scoring a goal, and I think we deserve to be where we are. But there's an awful long way to go."