RETURNING star Steve Cook believes Cherries’ “desperate” desire for victory had been the driving force to a record-breaking win at Brighton.

Cook came back into the heart of Cherries' defence for the first time since February after a spell of seven games on the sidelines due to discovering an abscess on his groin.

And he helped set the platform for a 5-0 victory against his former club at the Amex, as Eddie Howe’s men racked up their biggest away win since promotion to the Premier League in 2015.

Speaking after the visitors sealed just a second victory in 10 matches to move 13 points clear of the bottom three, Cook said: “It was a win that we needed.

“If results went against us, we could’ve been dragged back into the relegation fight.

“I feel that we were desperate to win. We had to win. They (Brighton) maybe wanted to win – I think that was the difference.

“We were ruthless.”

He added: “We’ve been on the end of that this year. Burnley last week (3-1 home defeat) wanted it more than us it seemed.

“On Saturday we were desperate to win, we did everything we could to win and not many teams go there and score five goals.

“To be fair to Brighton, they’re usually very solid at home. It just shows how big a win it is because Brighton at home are one of the best.”

Cherries could be mathematically sure of Premier League safety as soon as Tuesday if 18th-placed Cardiff lose to Brighton.

But Cook insists the target is no longer simply staying in the top flight and he wants to round off this campaign by eclipsing the club’s record top-flight tally of 46 points.

He said: “If we don’t stay up it would be an absolute travesty with the points that we’re on.

“It’s a huge success. But staying up now shouldn’t be the goal.

“The goal for us should be being in the top half and mixing it with the best.

“We feel disappointed that we haven’t been in and around it as much as we would’ve liked.

“We’ve got four games left and we can finish with the most amount of points we’ve ever achieved, so we can still have a very good season.”