Substitute Daryl Murphy's injury-time winner handed the Black Cats the derby spoils against Middlesbrough and brought a successful conclusion to their season-long fight to avoid an immediate return to the Coca-Cola Championship.
Roy Keane, a veteran of glittering campaigns at both club and international level as a player, admitted it has been a roller-coaster season, but was delighted with the outcome.
He said: "I am just delighted for everyone at the football club. It has been a roller-coaster, a proper roller-coaster.
"I have been on some at Alton Towers and they wouldn't touch this job, I'm telling you. It is just up and down.
"We have had a long week this week after the Newcastle game. I was disappointed with the reaction of certain people, both the media and our supporters.
"We know we are short, but you shouldn't question the players. They have answered a few people today, like I knew they would.
"If they had dropped their heads - and it would have been very easy to - trust me, we would have been well adrift with Derby, that's a promise.
"But we have a good dressing room and if we didn't have a good dressing room, we would have been knackered.
"That kept us going, a good dressing room and good staff."
Tuncay Sanli got Boro off to the perfect start with a fourth-minute opener, but Danny Higginbotham levelled with two minutes.
Michael Chopra put the home side ahead in first-half injury time, but it looked like Afonso Alves' 73rd-minute strike would be enough to hand the Teessiders a point until Murphy struck.