Tendayi Darikwa said Nottingham Forest had to stand up and defend strongly to seal the three points against Sunderland.
Daryl Murphy put The Reds in front late on and the defence had to survive a late siege on their goal to pick up a valuable win.
"It was a hard-fought three points," he said. "We came up here and we knew it was going to be tough and I think it was important that we didn't concede another sloppy goal. We spoke about it after the game at the weekend and it was important to come here, be solid and to try and keep our shape.
"It could have gone either way but we were solid and managed to get the goal and the win.
"The game was a bit flat from both teams so we said at half time about trying to lift the tempo and we started brightly in the second half. We always fancy ourselves to score a goal so we knew if we were solid at the back we could get a chance and Murph put it away."
Forest had come under criticism for their defending of set pieces but Darikwa feels they proved a point with the manner of their rearguard performance.
He said: "The first to criticise is ourselves. We have conceded a lot of our goals from set pieces so for us it is something to work on out on the training pitch.
"Tonight we have shown that we can defend set pieces as there were a lot of them and hopefully we can take it forward for the rest of the season.
"They put a lot of balls into the box towards the end but we had to be strong and defend together. When you come to a place like this, they will keep going until the final whistle so it was important to stand up and take the hits like we did.
"It has to be done in this league; you aren't just going to be given the three points. We got the goal and we had something to hang onto and we managed to do it."