Pools upset the the form book by recording only their second victory of the season against the title challengers, who were marking the anniversary of 150 years of football being played at Bramall Lane.
It was also the first time Pools have scored three goals in a game this season - February 18 was the last time. It was their first away victory since a win at Yeovil in March and the crowd of 19,941 was the biggest crowd Pools have won in front of in their 104- year history.
"I'm just hoping this might be the start of something and not a false dawn,'' admitted Hughes. "I don't want to get carried away but we'll soon find out.
"The effort and commitment was fantastic. Hopefully we'll get confidence and momentum to build on it.''
"There are some wonderful guys at the club who have helped me since I came here - Buster (Gallagher), Marty (Brown) and Micky (Barron) - and that victory is for them.
"We went to the home of the league leaders, who were celebrating 150 years of football at Bramall Lane.
"They were meant to win the game hands-down, so you can't now say we should go and beat Preston hands-down. Football doesn't work like that.
"We'll enjoy this win and hope we can get the same attitude on Tuesday.''
Hughes had recorded only a point in a 1-1 draw at Walsall since his appointment.
There have been signs of progress under his coaching, although the Boxing Day thumping at Carlisle was a step backwards.
"It's a long journey that we're on and I'm looking for progression,'' he said.
"Forget the football, I'm looking for character around the club, the way they conduct themselves and the way they train.
"I have to create a spirit and have guys that want to be here and that was evident.
"We were creating chances early on and we have done since I came to the club.
"We won't win every game but wouldn't it be nice if we could add that togetherness to playing football?
"We need to let teams know they've been in a game and that happened.
"If a guy does double step-overs and then puts one in the top corner then I'll stand up as manager and applaud.
"But he's going to have to do it two or three times to win the game.''
The second-half saw Pools teammates Sam Collins and Antony Sweeney square up and the pair were spoken to by referee Darren Deadman.
It was an unsavoury incident, but Hughes was happy to see his players showing spirit.
"It was brilliant - that's a bit of character,'' he insisted. "As long as it's done in the right spirit then it's OK.
"The two of them were laughing about it after. I turned to the bench when it happened and said 'brilliant, that's what we want'.''
Danny Wilson's side had not lost at home this season and Hughes wanted his players to stand up to the challenge. There are still 34 points separating the sides, and Pools remain 11 points from safety and eight adrift at the foot of the table.
They went ahead on Saturday, but were level at the interval after conceding. And, while their track record indicated they would crumble under second-half pressure, they dug in and scored two goals themselves.
"It was important at half-time that we had the right mindset,'' reflected Hughes.
"They are at the top of the league and we expected them to come out and have a right good go at us.
"I was asking them to stand up to that.
"The pleasing thing was that as soon as they went past one of our men then there was another one standing up to him - that's what gets you results. We have to make sure we're hard to beat.''
He added: "We have to make sure that we get our tactics and team shape right and that was certainly the case.
"Hopefully we'll see them coming into training with a smile on their faces and not feeling sorry for themselves.
"We've set a benchmark by beating the league leaders.
"We have to have a belief now to say 'let's go again'. We have to take inspiration from where we are.''
Pools could miss out on a loan deal for Middlesbrough midfielder Matty Dolan.
The Hartlepool-born academy prospect has been training with Pools with a view to moving up the A19 in January.
But he trained at the back end of last week with Yeovil, and a number of other League One clubs are interested in him.