Michael O'Neill believes Northern Ireland's team spirit got them over the line as they won 1-0 with a late Stuart Dallas goal away to Azerbaijan.
It looked as though the visitors would be frustrated in their attempts to keep the pressure on Germany at the top of Group C in World Cup qualifying, with Azerbaijan good value for a point.
But Dallas struck deep into injury time and O'Neill saw the result as a sign of progress for his side.
"Three, four years ago we would have lost this game 1-0 and people would not be surprised by that," he told the BBC.
"The result is testament to the spirit in the team. We stayed in the game, fought hard and got a lucky break."
And defender Jonny Evans added that Northern Ireland's glee at Dallas' effort was greater due to past disappointments.
"It's a great feeling," he said. "We've been on the receiving end of them in the past and it's not nice.
"It's probably the first time we've all felt bad for another team because I thought they were excellent."