Brighton and Hove Albion v Sheffield United: Oliver Norwood coming to the fore in Blades' hour of need
That was when the cultured midfielder, having stood in the rain contemplating the enormity of the job facing him as he waited for video assistant referee Chris Kavanagh to confirm Rob Jones' penalty decision, stepped forward and smashed the ball into the net to secure a 2-1 victory, Sheffield United's first of an extremely testing season.
In their rise from League One to Premier League – with a bump along the way – a lot has been made of the leaders in the Blades dressing room, but they have thinned out in the last six months.
Billy Sharp and Enda Stevens were released in the summer, a broken ankle has kept Chris Basham away from Shirecliffe lately and whilst John Egan's own ankle surgery has not stopped him appearing sporadically at the training ground, it kept the Blades captain and Oli McBurnie in the stands for last week's crunch game at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
But Norwood has a remarkable appearance record, ruined only slightly when Tommy Doyle displaced him in last season's promotion run-in, and when his team has really needed him recently, he has been there for them.
Norwood has worn the captain’s armband since Basham’s injury just before October’s international break and when Cameron Archer offered to take on the responsibility of the decisive penalty against Wolves, he batted the young striker away.
Seven days earlier it was Norwood who called his team-mates – and himself – out for their performance in the 5-0 drubbing at Arsenal. All well and good, but fighting talk like that only counts for anything if you do something about it. He did.
At 32 years-old and with more than 500 appearances under his belt – 37 for Sunday's opponents Brighton and Hove Albion – Norwood is old and wise enough to know last week’s heroics will count for very little if the relegation-threatened Blades do not follow it up with more points pretty quickly.
It is a message manager Paul Heckingbottom was guaranteed to drum into his players this week.
"If you get carried away and start relaxing, things can bite you again, so you have to get the mentality, no, no, we're fighting," he stresses. "We've worked so hard to get here, we're fighting to stay here.
"Attack every game, be as aggressive as you can and if it’s not going to be our day, it's not going to be our day.
"We know what we need to do to give ourselves the best chance."
When asked if Norwood was the kind of player who will only be fully appreciated when he no longer wears red-and-white stripes, Heckingbottom concurred, but it is crystal clear how much his manager values him right now.
"People definitely know what he does," he says. "No one can doubt the quality Ollie's got, it up to us – him – to show that quality because there's things he does better than most, even in this league. He's got to come and deliver that part of his game.
"The other bits you guys don't see is how hard he trains, he's always fit, always available. They're the bits that are going to help him prolong his career."
The point about it being the responsibility of the collective is an important one. Most players will struggle to show their best if those around him are not doing their jobs.
Norwood is a player who can do a lot of damage with time on the ball but making the space for him is essential, and the continuing bedding-down of summer signing Vinicuis Souza has been an important part of the equation.
Brighton's trademark ferocious pressing will test Norwood and Souza –provided the hosts’ heads are in the right place. Manager Roberto de Zerbi called their victory over Ajax in Thursday's Europa League game the best in the club's history but the stumbling Dutch giants are the only team the Seagulls have beaten – twice – in their last nine matches.
If Norwood's qualities are sometimes overlooked, Brighton's rarely are these days, the groundwork they have put in over many years finally getting recognition.
Heckingbottom saw first hand how good a team Brighton were becoming in his first Premier League win – as the Blades' caretaker manager in April 2021. His team needed luck that day and will do again.
"They were a difficult team to prepare for with some really good players and I thought we defended really well but we still needed moments to go our way," he recalls. "Neal Maupay flashed one wide from about six yards out, I think we were one-up at the time.
"It's probably going to take a similar type of performance (to win on Sunday). We know they've got good individual players, we know they like to dominate the ball so we're going to have to be really disciplined and enjoy that part of the game but be as aggressive as we can be when we win the ball back.
"I know they've got a different manager but they've certainly got a similar style."
Heckingbottom will need his leaders to stand up again. Despite what those who would rather see him pensioned off think, he will need Norwood again.