The Northern Irishman has called for the Mackems to try and match their rivals' surprise fifth-placed finish of last season when domestic action resumes
The Black Cats failed to finish above the Magpies for the first time since 2008 last term, as Alan Pardew's side mounted a shock challenge for Champions League football before eventually securing a Europa League berth.
And O'Neill, who took charge of the Wearside club following Steve Bruce's sacking last December, hopes to see his side use that fact to their advantage next time round.
"If it hasn't upped the ante, it certainly should do," he told reporters.
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"It was a really great season. And, of course, that's something that we want to emulate as quickly as we possibly can.
"But it's easier said than done.”
Though the Mackems' league form improved significantly following O'Neill's arrival, he expressed disappointment over missing out on an FA Cup semi-final berth.
He said: "We made some progress last season but the Everton FA Cup defeat probably served as a reality check after we had played so well against the eventual champions Manchester City.”
And the former Celtic boss acknowledged the need to strengthen this summer in order to mount a challenge for silverware.
"We all know what's needed at the football club. The priorities are to get some players in who will make us a better team,” he added.
"It's nothing new to me, It's always a bit of a balancing act.
"I am not trying to make a statement with a transfer. I am more interested in signing players who will make an impact. If they make an impact at the football club I would be delighted and so would the players.
"The transfer market has become a much more complicated arena since I have been in management.
"There are now so many more things to take into consideration. It is unrecognisable from 30 years ago - probably even 20 years ago."