The Ulsterman has made no secret during his time at the Stadium of Light that the overwhelming priority is top-flight survival and the battle for those precious 40 points.
That process has been all the more difficult in recent seasons by the number of clubs - Newcastle, West Brom and tonight's opponents Swansea among them - who have won promotion and then made the transition to the big time with some aplomb.
However, as the Magpies have perhaps discovered this time around, there is no room for complacency and O'Neill is not about to be lulled into a false sense of security despite seeing the Black Cats ease themselves nine points clear of the drop zone with a run of five wins in eight outings.
He said: "I have got a difference of opinion about establishing oneself - you could be in this league for five years and you could struggle in any given year and then find yourself not as established as you thought you were.
"Every single year presents the same challenges. You have to get to the points.
"Manchester City, Manchester United and a few sides like that - Chelsea, Arsenal, those sides who have been contesting top four - wouldn't think about worrying about 40 points, but there are quite a number of teams who do.
"Winning games is very important. I take less notice at this stage of position. I would rather have the points on the board. For us, that's still very important."