AS the Sunderland fans repeatedly chanted Kevin Phillips’ name, there may have been a period during Saturday’s demolition of Wycombe Wanderers when Phil Parkinson wondered what more he had to do.

It’s not long since they were doing the same during the drab draw with bottom-of-the-table Bolton, a low point when many fans wanted Parkinson out and Phillips to replace him.

They were 13th then, the season appearing to have gone beyond the point of salvation.

Yet, here we are, just three weeks later and supporters thoroughly enjoyed a fun afternoon on Saturday, the Black Cats casually sweeping aside opposition that had arrived as League One leaders, and Phillips, rather than looking for employment, was a guest at the Stadium of Light.

He was spotted by fans, caught on camera, the moment that supporters chanted his name, enjoying the display as Parkinson’s transformed team put in their best performance of the season.

Confidence was flowing through the team during a 4-0 win which means Sunderland are unbeaten in six, have won three of their last four games and are now sixth.

“There’s definitely a different feel about the team at the moment,” said Parkinson. “I’m enjoying working with the lads and so are the staff.

“They are on a high in the dressing room, which is great. You’ve got to enjoy the victories as a manager and as a player, you really have, because you work very hard to achieve them.

“But our feet are firmly on the ground ready to work next week.”

Not only are they in the play-off zone, in this form suddenly the gap to the automatic promotion places, now six points, no longer appears insurmountable.

Despite some poor football in Parkinson’s first few months in the job, and just two wins in his first 14 fixtures, the reality is that he has discovered a formation and line-up that is working.

Carry on like this and in humble pie will be in order in some quarters.

Gareth Ainsworth, Wycombe’s boss who could have replaced Jack Ross, admitted: “It was a superb performance by Sunderland, I thought they were outstanding.

“Phil has done a magnificent job in finding a system that works and players to make it work, you’ve got to give him credit.

“It’s been a tough afternoon for Wycombe, but Sunderland away is a tough afternoon for most clubs so we are one of many that is going to come here and struggle.”

It was one-way traffic in the first half, Sunderland following up last week’s 3-1 win against Lincoln City by storming into a 3-0 lead after 21 minutes.

Charlie Wyke scored a tap-in after six minutes when Lynden Gooch teed him up, and Denver Hume made it 2-0 with his first career goal, finishing off a lovely flowing move the right which finished with Jordan Willis firing over a cross for the left wingback to slot home from 12 yards.

“I have felt like it was coming,” he said. “I had some opportunities in the previous few games, I wish I'd scored before now but it felt really good to get it today.

“It was great team play. Obviously I was watching it from the other side, a great move and I thought I better get myself in the box, it's what I've been trying to do in training and I've been told I need to get in at the back stick when the ball comes in from the right.

“Jord has put a great ball across and I've been able to finish it off.”

Chris Maguire got the first of his two goals of the day from the penalty spot to make it 3-0 after Gooch had been fouled by Anthony Stewart.

It was a goal Maguire marked by celebrating directly in front of goalkeeper Ryan Allsop, perhaps not forgotten his apparent timewasting when the teams met in October.

So dominant had Sunderland been that Ainsworth made a tactical substitution before half-time, sending on Adebayo Akinfenwa.

“If we had kept doing the same thing we’d have been asking for trouble, so putting the big man on gave us an outlet,” he explained.

“We stemmed the tide a little bit after that, but we were second best in a lot of things today, but we were made second best by an outstanding team.

“There’s some superb footballers here, the fans are fantastic and get behind the team really well.”

Akinfenwa won the first three headers and succeeded in getting Wycombe up the pitch, but this game was over by half-time, at which point Sunderland could have had added to the scoreline.

The players can be forgiven for slacking off a little in the second half, they had done the business in the first 45 minutes to the delight of an appreciative crowd.

“That was the best atmosphere since I’ve been here,” said Parkinson. “The supporters were great, they got right behind the lads and responded to the way we were playing and the lads enjoyed it.

“We’ve got to use our fans to our benefit and we certainly did that in the second half when at times it got a bit bitty, they kept right behind us and lifted us to the end.”

A final flourish was Maguire’s marvellous free-kick with 12 minutes to, the ball crossing the line after hitting the underside of the bar, always making for the most aesthetically pleasing of set-piece goals.

Next up is a trip to struggling Milton Keynes, an opportunity to keep the improved form going.

“We've had a run of good results recently,” added Hume. “We want to build on that, improve on it and keep climbing the table.

“Everyone knows we want to get promoted so we have to keep working hard and improving, I think the spirit is really good at the minute around the squad. If we keep doing that we'll keep picking up points and winning games.

“We've got a great set of lads here and we've stuck together well.

“You've got to keep fighting and work hard and the results will come, which they have started to do.”