Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert says Christian Benteke is "fabulous" after his 17-minute hat-trick pushed his side closer to Premier League survival.
Benteke, 22, took his season's tally to 22 goals with his second-half treble in the
6-1 thrashing of Sunderland.
Villa are now five points clear of Wigan - who are in the bottom three with a game in hand - and above Newcastle on goal difference.
Lambert hails 'massive performance'
"He's been fabulous. He has a big, big career in front of him," said Lambert.
"For a lad of 22 he has played a lot of high-pressure games for club and country.
"The crowd here love him and I can't speak highly enough of him. As long as he keeps his feet on the ground he can have a big career.
"When you look at his header for his second goal he jumped the height of the crossbar. He has just been excellent."
Benteke, who was born in DR Congo but plays for Belgium,
was signed from Genk for £7m
in August 2012.
Lambert was delighted with how his young side responded to the pressure of a game Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio described as a "Champions League final".
Christian Benteke's 18 goals is the most any Aston Villa player has managed in a single Premier League season - Dwight Yorke scored 17 on two occasions.
Villa are now also level on points with Sunderland with three games left to play.
They travel to Norwich and host Chelsea before making the trip to Wigan on the final day of the season.
"I thought we were outstanding, fantastic right from the off in such a high-pressure game," added Lambert. "The crowd were fantastic. They identify with this young team and they bounce off each other.
"I know Christian got man of the match but I thought Matthew Lowton was the best player on the pitch by an absolute mile.
"We have been playing extremely well since the turn of the year. They have never complained, never got their heads down and these young lads have just got better and better.
"We have tried to keep them level-headed and keep them believing what they are doing is right. They have got great enthusiasm and hunger."