The Seagulls missed out on promotion only on goal difference last season but now sit top of the Championship with five games to go.
Brighton were fighting relegation when Hughton took over as Albion boss in December, 2014, and behind the turnaround in the club's fortunes, he said: "Hard work from the players and I think we've recruited very well.
"In each of the windows I've been here, I think we've improved the squad. Where we are this season is a consequence of the players being motivated by what they achieved last season, although we didn't get where we wanted to be.
"With the strength of the Championship, to be part of the top group of teams for most of the season, that's been the motivating factor but ultimately it's about hard work, determination and motivation by the players."
With Newcastle, Norwich and Aston Villa relegated from the top flight last season, Hughton admits it is a struggle to compete at the top of the division.
He said: "It's incredibly difficult and that's shown by the quality of the teams that perhaps haven't been.
"When you look at the teams, Villa and Norwich, and at this moment Fulham who aren't in the top six, it shows how difficult this division is and as each season goes, it will get even tougher."
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