The Black Cats trailed 2-0 to League One MK Dons at the Stadium of Light with just 12 minutes of normal time remaining when they finally clicked to smash four goals by the time the clock ticked into the sixth minute of added time.
Di Canio was understandably delighted with what he saw during a rousing conclusion to a pulsating contest, but that did not temper his anger at what had gone before.
He said: "We are going to work harder. I have to make sure that my players understand I am not tough just to be tough.
"If we focus attention on the last 15 minutes and the goals we scored, we are going to be the same team, we are going to have the same mentality that we have had in the last few months or few years.
"It's difficult to come back like we did, but we have to analyse this first 75 minutes. The approach was very poor, the quality was very poor.
"We are still a work in progress. You can see my face, you can think if I am happy or not. Obviously, I enjoyed the result, but I am not happy."
The visitors looked to be cruising when striker Izale McLeod deftly lifted the ball over advancing goalkeeper Vito Mannone to give them a 2-0 lead after Patrick Bamford's sumptuous seventh-minute strike.
Sunderland, who had hit the post through Jozy Altidore a minute before half-time, might have been even further behind, but they somehow managed to drag themselves back into a contest which looked to be slipping from their grasp.
Altidore opened his account for the club with 78 minutes gone, but it was substitute Connor Wickham, who had replaced Ji Dong-won early in the second half, who turned the game with a double inside the last four minutes.
That was cruel enough on Karl Robinson's side, who conceded again in injury time when Adam Johnson rounded off a remarkable night.
Di Canio said: "Even if I know it's not easy when you play poorly like that and you give away a stupid, stupid goal, to come back and win is something special.
"But once again, I am very, very happy for 15 minutes; I am very, very angry for 75, so the balance is not very good."
Robinson admitted he never thought the game was won even at 2-0.
He said: "We went to QPR last year and went four up and someone asked me the question, 'What did you think?'.
"I didn't know what to do. You don't ever plan to be this amount of goals up at a Premier League team.
"Today [Tuesday] I was more concerned about putting a show on and playing football the way I want it to be played.
"Listen, even at our level the game can change so, so quickly and at this level against a League One side, they can change even quicker."