The champions managed to string together back-to-back victories for the first time this season but still stay bottom of Super League due to Huddersfield Giants’ win at Salford.
Brad Singleton scored two tries and Liam Sutcliffe contributed 20 points as Leeds proved too good for their derby rivals at a rain-soaked Belle Vue.
On the back of an 8-0 success against Salford Red Devils, they have now just conceded one try in 160 minutes, pointing at a revival.
McDermott said: “Our defence especially was another stand-out for us.
“I thought for the opening exchanges the first 20 or 25 minutes, we were as good as we’ve seen this year.
“We got a bit scrappy, slapping handbags with (Dave) Fifita, and that distracted us but we got back on the horse.
“There’s a bit to play for isn’t there? We’ve looked like a lost cause on occasions this year in terms of the league table but we have got a bit of a sniff now.”
Leeds are now six points behind eighth-placed Widnes Vikings – who they host a week Friday – with four games to go.
Asked how significant he thought earning a first away win of the season was, McDermott replied: “It’s a win and a great win.
“It keeps us alive on the table and alive of hopefully getting into the top eight. That’s the most significant part of it.”
Wakefield coach Chris Chester said: “Our discipline was very, very poor; we gave away far too many penalties and were the second best team all night.”
He did, however, take issue with Fifita’s yellow card after the Australian prop was sin-binned on debut after a fracas with Jamie Jones-Buchanan.
“Dave Fifita gets whacked across the face and I think it’s the first time I’ve seen a player sin-binned for throwing the ball at an opposition player.
“He’s retaliated to swinging arm. He’ll have to go for an X-ray on his cheekbone now.”
Chester also revealed that captain Danny Kirmond missed the game due to being in hospital on a drip to an infected knee which could jeopardise his chances of playing in Thursday’s Challenge Cup quarter-final versus Huddersfield, while Nick Scruton is out for three to four weeks with a groin injury.