Sam Allardyce believes he may finally have struck upon a winning combination for Sunderland – but he insists they have to remain flexible.
The Black Cats boss sprung a surprise ahead of kick-off as he reverted back to the 3-5-2 formation that backfired so badly against Everton.
But against Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace, Sunderland showed a new-found resilience.
And Allardyce said it shows he can play match-winner Jermain Defoe and Steven Fletcher up front, provided those at the back do their job.
Allardyce named a back three of John O’Shea, Sebastian Coates and Younes Kaboul at Selhurst Park, all of who excelled, providing a platform for the attacking players to prosper.
“We can play with Steven Fletcher up front and Jermain Defoe up front if we are as resilient as we were against Palace, because those two players will score goals,” said Allardyce.
“With the conversion rate that particularly Jermain has, we only need one or two chances to score a goal.
“When you’ve got someone like that at this level, it’s crucial.
“The big problem for me has been how do I play them up front together, and by playing three at the back it has given me a bit of a way forward.”
Attacking wise, Allardyce has several options to choose from.
Duncan Watmore and Jeremain Lens both impressed when they came off the bench midway through the second half, while Danny Graham helped shore things up when he came on for injured Defoe.
They helped push Sunderland further up the pitch and their pace and trickery added a new dimension.
Allardyce added: “I also had two other options with Duncan, the up and coming young man, and you saw the quality he has got and a lot of the good things he did, and also Danny Graham.
“So for a struggling club we have got plenty of options going forward.
“We’ve got to be flexible.
“I’ve got Fabio Borini to come back in, Adam Johnson on the bench who wasn’t very happy – it may be that we play 4-2-3-1.”
It was certainly a far more positive Sunderland camp following the 1-0 win over Palace.
The win saw them climb above Bournemouth into 18th, now just a point behind Newcastle United.
And experienced Allardyce is confident Sunderland can continue to climb the Premier League table if they cut out the individual mistakes, like they managed to do last night.
He added: “Apart from the slip-up at Everton, we lost 1-0 at West Brom which was a mistake by Mr Atkinson, we lost 1-0 against Southampton which was a mistake by Yann M’Vila because he gave the penalty away, and we’ve won 1-0 because we didn’t make that mistake and they did.
“The more the players get used to it, it can be a very attacking formation with two up top.
“There’s not many who play two up top any more.
“But when you play two up there, it’s about the service you give to them.
“If you can get that right, your wing-backs become wingers and they provide the service to get you goals, and the back door is shut by the three central defenders.
“It’s difficult because you are asking them to do something they haven’t done an awful lot.”
Next up for Sunderland is the visit of Stoke City to the Stadium of Light on Saturday. Billy Jones will miss the game through suspension after he was booked against Palace.