Peter Odemwingie's attempts to force through a deadline-day transfer to QPR and Goran Popov's red card for spitting at Kyle Walker have brought the Baggies unwelcome attention but victory at Anfield moved Steve Clarke's side up to 10th.
McAuley told the Express and Star of the club's aim to better last season's tally of 47 points and a 10th-place finish, explaining: "We needed to get the feel-good factor going again. There's been a lot of things being talked about and we wanted to get a result and start talking about football again.
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"We've got the lads back on the park again. We've got players fit and hopefully we can go out and pick up some results now.
"We know [Popov and Odemwingie] are important players for us and we missed them when they weren't in the team - getting them back together was important but we were focused and determined.
"We knew a win would put us above Liverpool and it was all about getting a result.
"It's still the same targets we've had from the beginning of the season, which were to finish higher than we did last year and with more points than we did last year. That's the focus. We've got 12 games left and we need to win as many of those as we can."