Defeat to Sheffield Wednesday in the semi-finals was the third time in four years that Brighton had fallen just short of their target, which Hughton insists makes this season's glory all the more special for the club's ardent supporters.
"Last season was a learning curve. We enjoyed being in that top group of teams but then we had the disappointment. But it was certainly worth what we went through last season," he told Sky Sports News. "When we managed to get promotion, I think that's what most people were thinking: how far this club's come.
"There were periods where this wonderful place we've got now might not have been there. It's nothing short of what the players deserve. You can talk about money and cars but you want them to have achieved their ambitions and I'm delighted for them.
"After the celebrations, we're now back to the reality of a difficult game but the players are used to that change in emotions. We've still got something really exciting to play for and the season will be a better season if we manage to finish top."
Brighton have the chance to wrap up the Championship title when facing Hughton's former club Norwich City on Friday night.