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The Black Cats winger helped himself to a hat-trick and an assist in the club's impressive 4-1 win at Fulham, where Rene Meulensteen lamented his side's sloppy display

Triumphant Sunderland manager Gus Poyet lavished hat-trick hero Adam Johnson with praise after the Black Cats battered Fulham 4-1 on Saturday to climb off the foot of the table.

The visitors' rampant win was inspired by the 26-year-old winger who showed a touch of class from set-pieces and predatory instincts inside the box as he scored three and grabbed one assist.

And in the aftermath of victory, Poyet vowed to do all he could as Johnson pushes for an unlikely World Cup place this summer, believing good form from the wideman will see Sunderland stay up.

“I will try to help him [catch Hodgson’s eye],” Poyet said. “If Johnson makes the World Cup, we’ll stay in the Premier League for sure.”

Sunderland withstood early pressure before taking the lead in the 29th minute as Johnson won and scored a free-kick from 20 yards before Ki Sung-Yeung benefitted from another precise set-piece.

Poyet enthused: “From the beginning we were happy with the way the game was going, we scored at the right time - that is important. When you’ve got a player in that form like Johnson today.

“He’s been like that for two to three weeks. I always believe there’s a responsibility on the player - playing well or badly - but there are certain players who need the team to play one kind of football.

“We’re looking to get that style of play for him to make the difference. We’ve been getting close but not getting the next level, today it clicked.

“When you’ve been consistent and you get results. I think we’ve lost one in ten [sic: nine] now, we’re better. And then someone steps up and performs like Johnson today, we have a great chance [of surviving].”

Johnson has been at the Stadium of Light for a year-and-a-half after a £10 million move from Manchester City and Poyet believes he is hitting his peak at just the right time.

He added: “Normally when you hit 27 there are no more excuses. You still have pace and ability, you have to be at your best, you understand your game better, you’ve played against everyone.

“He’ll give us the chance to get us off the bottom of the table. Results brought eight teams in there. It’ll be tense but at least we are coming from the bottom.”

Meanwhile, Fulham boss Rene Meulensteen rued his side’s display, especially after a confident opening 15 mintues.

He said: “[We’re] Very disappointed. We were quite in control and dominated. Should have and could have been two up before that free-kick.

“You give yourself a mountain to climb, even worse conceding that second one, another free-kick. It takes real hard work to get back into the game and get something from the game… knowing these home games against teams around you, you need to win.”

The home side were undone by a devastating counterattack midway through the second half after a long period of dominance following Steve Sidwell’s goal and Meulensteen bemoaned the moment that he felt killed his side’s chance of a comeback.

“That was the defining moment that ball… we were playing attacking in and around the box and they broke on the counter. Credit to Sunderland in that respect, that was the sort of goal you look for as the away team.

Meulensteen was however keen to point out an overall improvement in his side's general play, despite the occasional needless error.

"In general, the transitions, performances and the way we want to play have been improving," he continued. "You can’t deny that. If you look at the stats, in terms of possession, attempts and all sorts, we are better.

"But within those regards, the quality in the final third, the final ball and putting the ball in the net, that’s one issue. What we keep talking about that we need to get out of our system is conceding those goals.

“Then, 3-1 down and a poor challenge in the last minute and you sit here 4-1, no points and very disillusioned.”

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