MATCH REPORT: Sunderland 0-2 Preston North EndThe Lilywhites won 2-0 in the Wearside snow, Sean Maguire and Callum Robinson scoring in the second half.
They moved up to eighth place and to within two points of the play-off places.
North End had enjoyed the better of the first-half play but without being able to find a route through the Black Cats' rigid 3-5-2 system.
So he swapped Maguire and Robinson's roles in the front line and saw it pay dividends.
PNE manager Neil said: "We needed to move the ball a little bit better than we did in the opening period, so we made a tactical change at half-time,moving Sean to the flank and bringing Callum inside.
"I thought Sunderland were denying the space in behind so Sean's threat in terms of stretching it wasn't really there.
"So we started stretching it in wide areas and Callum sunk in as a false nine, playing in between the lines.
"Sunderland found it really difficult to deal with that because it disjoints the defence.
"That helped us, we have used that in a number of games."
It was an eighth away win of the campaign for North End and stretched Sunderland's run without a win to 10 matches.
Neil said: "Our main port of call was to come and win the game.
"The only frustrating thing was that it could have been and should have been more - we created a number of opportunities.
"These games are always difficult because you are coming to a team under pressure and are hoping you can perform well enough.
"Both sets of players deserve credit because the conditions were much more testing than they probably looked.
"I was standing on the touchline, the wind was swirling and when the snow started you could see that it wasn't going in any one direction.
"It was a difficult platform to play football in but I thought we did that very well.
"We created the better opportunities in the game.
"When we went ahead you could see that automatically Sunderland's heads went down and then the sending-off really changed the game."
Maguire completed his first 90 minutes since hamstring surgery and the Irishman is now Preston's leading scorer in the Championship with nine goals.
Neil said: "That is five goals in four games for Sean, it had been the one area we had been lacking at times this season when we are on top and should be finishing games.
"You need that guy who can put the ball in the net and Sean has been that man."