A final week that always looked as potentially pivotal as it did daunting for Huddersfield Town will decide their Premier League fate.
Defeat to Everton together with Southampton’s victory at home to Bournemouth means the Terriers are three points clear of the relegation zone with nine points up for grabs.
Just how many of those available points Huddersfield can reasonably hope to collect is debatable, but it is difficult to imagine a tougher final seven days than those facing head coach David Wagner’s men.
To recap, Yorkshire’s sole top-flight representative head to champions Manchester City on Sunday, Chelsea three days later and then round off their season at home to Arsenal on May 13 in what will be Arsene Wenger’s Premier League swansong.
With their team facing such a tough schedule it is no wonder plenty in Kirklees will be cheering on the Gunners this Thursday against Atletico Madrid in the Europa League.
Victory for the London club would put them through to the final, which just happens to take place three days after Wenger’s men are due at the John Smith’s Stadium.
All our opponents are very tough. I cannot choose between City, Chelsea and Arsenal as our best chance. That is difficult.Jonas Lossl
As happened on the final day in 2009 when Manchester United headed to Hull just days before competing in the Champions League final, Arsenal would be likely to field a second-string side.
It could be Town’s best hope as, on both current form and their record against the top six this term, making a case for these final fixtures yielding the required victory is not easy.
Still, if any side is capable of overcoming the odds then it is Huddersfield under Wagner. Jonas Lossl, for one, believes survival is still very much on.
“These are difficult games, but we still have three chances to do this,” the Danish international goalkeeper told The Yorkshire Post. “We have to believe 100 per cent.
“We all want to play in the Premier League again next season. We need at least one point to do that.
“There is no way we can think 35 points will be enough. We have to go into these final three games believing we can win. That is what we will do.
“All our opponents are very tough. I cannot choose between City, Chelsea and Arsenal as our best chance. That is difficult.
“What we have to do is take one game at a time. All three are world class, but we have shown against the big teams that we can do it. Our win against (Manchester) United showed that.”
Ah yes, that famous triumph over Jose Mourinho’s men. It was, indeed, a wonderful day for all at the club.
Perhaps more telling, however, in terms of Huddersfield’s prospects going into this trio of fixtures against three top sides is how the other eight meetings with the top six have panned out.
All eight have been lost while Lossl has been beaten no fewer than 24 times. Town have also managed just two goals, and one of those was a last-minute consolation when already trailing 3-0 at home to Chelsea in December.
If this record is to be improved before the curtain comes down on this season then there will have to be a big improvement on how Huddersfield performed against Everton.
After starting on the front foot and pressing high up the field, Town lost their way.
Rajiv van la Parra, moments after a blatant dive had been waved away by referee Lee Probert, did fire over on the half-hour after being found by Alex Pritchard.
Later Pritchard wasted an excellent opportunity when slipping at the vital moment following a sweeping move.
These moments apart, however, Jordan Pickford was rarely troubled in the visitors’ goal. The same cannot be said about Lossl at the other end even if Everton’s game plan was to defend deep and then break at speed.
Town’s goalkeeper had little chance with either goal. For the first, on 39 minutes, a loose pass from van la Parra 10 or so yards into the Everton half allowed Theo Walcott to claim possession.
He, in turn, released Cenk Tosun, who after dashing forward drilled a low shot across Lossl from the edge of the penalty area and into the bottom corner of the net.
Similar pinpoint accuracy from Idrissa Gueye brought the second goal 13 minutes from time, the home defence having gone AWOL to leave Leighton Baines in sufficient space to pick out his unmarked team-mate 20 yards out.
In between the two strikes Lossl did brilliantly well to deny Seamus Coleman after the Irishman had been played through by Nikola Vlasic.
Coleman also wasted another gilt-edged opportunity when found unmarked by Baines’s free-kick six yards out. The resulting scuffed effort drew groans from the 2,249 visitors behind the goal.
Having been handed two big let-offs, Town hoped to take advantage, but Gueye had other ideas.
It means Huddersfield must now retain their Premier League safety the hard way, something Wayne Rooney admits to believing can happen.
“Huddersfield have done fantastic this season,” said England’s all-time record goalscorer, afforded a generous round of applause from the home fans when substituted during the second half.
“I am sure they will stay in the league and I think their manager has done a great job. We had seen videos and watched them throughout the season so know they try to play football. But we stuck to our game plan.”