Paolo Di Canio paid tribute to his little big man after seeing Sunderland drag themselves to the brink of Premier League safety.
Stephane Sessegnon's second goal in a week secured a deserved 1-0 win over high-flying Everton as the Black Cats claimed back-to-back triumphs to edge themselves six points clear of the scrap for survival with just four games remaining.
The Benin international's decisive intervention came in first-half stoppage time as he drilled in a low shot. Toffees goalkeeper Tim Howard got a hand to it, but could not keep it out of his bottom corner.
A delighted Di Canio said: "The little one is big. He's a big player. We all know he is capable of scoring a goal like that.
"I want to point attention to the job they did once again up front. Both Stephane and Danny [Graham] - they left all their energy on the ground, and then obviously the goal made all the difference.
"It was a fantastic goal."
Di Canio's first game at the Stadium of Light could hardly have unfolded in much more pleasing style as his players collected a second successive clean sheet while causing far more problems than the visitors.
Sebastian Larsson had already gone increasingly close with three free-kicks when he laid the ball in to Sessegnon and watched him beat Howard.
Everton were far from at their best, and it was Larsson who came closest to dragging them back into it when he completely overhit a 78th-minute back-pass to keeper Simon Mignolet, forcing him to catch the ball, which cost the Belgium international a booking and his side an indirect free-kick 12 yards from goal.
However, with the home fans fearing the worst, the Black Cats' defensive wall proved equal to the task when Leighton Baines drilled in his shot after being teed up by Nikica Jelavic and Steven Pienaar.
Di Canio said: "At the end, to be honest, we suffered a bit, but they didn't have any clear chances - apart from the back-pass by Sebastian, that was the only one.
"That can happen. But I did much worse when I used to play, so it's not an issue because Seb delivered another fantastic effort in the middle of the field, quality.
"He's one of the best players, not only here, but in the Premier League."
Sunderland looked like a different team to the one which was slipping inexorably into the mire during the latter days of Martin O'Neill's reign.
The belief has returned in abundance since Di Canio's arrival, and his infectious enthusiasm has been transmitted onto the field.
Players who had previously been shackled by anxiety are starting to take responsibility once more, while the defensive insecurity which proved so costly during the depths of their woes has been eradicated.
A narrow defeat at Chelsea in the manager's first game was followed by last weekend's famous derby victory at Newcastle, and Jack Colback, who was asked to fill in at right-back against the Toffees, acknowledged those two performances had laid the foundation for a first victory over Everton in 20 attempts in all competitions stretching back almost 12 years.
He said: "It was a massive win today and a massive win last week. We were struggling a bit to get that win.
"But the performance against Chelsea was decent. It gave us the confidence to go to Newcastle, and obviously the confidence that gave us was massive coming into this game.
"We played well and deserved the win."
It was Colback's first start under Di Canio and the midfielder-turned-defender admitted it had been tough to find himself out of the team.
He said: "Obviously it's disappointing. When a new manager comes in, there's always a chance that you might fall out [of favour] if he's got different ideas.
"But as a player, you've just got to keep your head. I have come off the bench each time and then played today. You have just got to keep focused because you can be thrown in at any moment, and you have got to be ready."
Everton boss David Moyes conceded after the game that his side's chances of a top-four finish had probably gone as a result of the defeat, and felt they may have caught Sunderland at the wrong time.
He said: "You could tell by the atmosphere in the ground. There was an incredible atmosphere around the stadium.
"Even when they were hanging on at 1-0, the crowd were willing them to make sure they didn't concede a goal.
"It's given them a bit of energy, the players, I'm sure the city and the club itself, and that was evident today."