Sol Bamba’s return was amazing and captain Marlon Pack’s man of the match performance sublime, while German striker Robert Glatzel produced his best personal display in 15 appearances.
Substitute Bamba was sent on before half-time and had his longest outing since last February, making a series of goal-saving interceptions.
“I was dying to play,” an ecstatic Bamba told Cardiff City TV. “I’ve been waiting for a long time.
“When you come back from a long term injury all you dream about is being back on the pitch. I work to give 100 per cent and I’m glad we managed to earn the win.
“There is a lot of competition for places, but that’s what you want in the team. It will drive everyone on. We’re a group and we support each other.
“It was a great performance from the whole team at Hillsbrough.
“To a man, we were absolutely unbelievable. Credit to all the lads.
“We wanted to finish well, with it being the last game of the year. It was important to put a statement out. We’re not too far off the play-offs.”
Cardiff are unbeaten in their last four Championship matches, although three of those were drawn, and they moved up one place to 10th in the SkyBet Championship.
Both Bluebirds goals came in the first eight minutes and striker Glatzel said: “Every one of us gave 100 per cent and we fought to the end. It was an unbelievable team performance which makes the win even more special.
“We set the standard of how well we can perform when we work together as a team.”
Cardiff City go into the New Year full of hope that they can push on for a play-offs spot, although manager Neil Harris admitted the club won’t be splashing out on transfer fees next month.
“We won’t be spending any money in January,” he said. “We’re going to have to be clever and look at loan players or frees.
“I have a strong group of players.”
Harris also talked about the Wednesday win, saying: “We had to deal with some adversity as well and in a strange way being 2-0 up early on brings the downfall that you can be complacent.
“We had to rely on a few blocks and good saves from Neil Etheridge at 2-0. Then we conceded, lost two players to injury within five minutes and had to reshuffle to a back five.
“You’re asking a lot of the players, but that is testament to the players’ character. I’m really pleased with the group of players and the two goals we scored were outstanding.”
Glatzel and Hoilett fired City 2-0 ahead before Tom Lees pulled one back after 18 minutes, when he headed in from a Barry Bannan corner. Wednesday’s starting line-up included former Cardiff winger Kadeem Harris and Jacob Murphy, the twin brother of Bluebirds’ player Josh.
Former Swansea City player and manager Garry Monk is in charge at Wednesday and said: “We started the game well, opening them up a few times. But we conceded two poor goals, from our point of view.
“Cardiff then set up to make it difficult for us to break them down. A few things didn’t help us – a lot of timewasting, a lot of stoppages – but we lacked that final edge to get an equaliser.
“The effort was there, but we didn’t help ourselves with the two goals against us.”
After finishing the decade with an away win, City will next be in action on New Year’s Day, when they travel to play Queens Park Rangers (3pm).