Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini says taking all three points from the Stadium of Light was not easy for his players.
The 1-0 away win comes days after the club announced the arrival of Pep Guardiola's as next season's manager.
But the Citizens were not affected by the news as they kept their cool to secure a very important win on a day that saw Arsenal dropping points at home against Southampton.
"It was a tough game," Pellegrini told BBC Sport.
"This is a team who are fighting relegation. They will play every game like a final.
"It is not our style to play with nine defenders but it was our third game in a week and it was impossible to have a high pace with all our injuries. It was better to defend well and concentrate.
"It is an important three points and now we have to play Leicester at home and they are still the leaders."