Steve Bruce turned to the past to provide hope for the future after his Sheffield Wednesday side came from behind to earn a 1-1 draw at Derby.
Bruce knows his team need a repeat of what he achieved at Birmingham in 2002 when they came from a long way back to gatecrash the play-offs and beat Norwich in the final.
Wednesday had to settle for a second draw in a week after Derby got the start they wanted when Bradley Johnson headed in from eight yards after a corner flicked off Adam Reach in the 10th minute.
The Owls had a great chance to equalise in the 25th minute but Steven Fletcher’s shot was pushed away by Scott Carson and the striker had to be helped from the pitch with a knee and ankle injury early in the second half.
Wednesday were level in the 57th minute when Dominic Iorfa headed in Barry Bannan’s free-kick and the visitors had a ‘goal’ disallowed 11 minutes from time.
Sam Winnall thought he had won it on his return after 13 months out with the knee injury sustained on loan at Derby but referee Keith Stroud ruled he had kicked the ball from Carson’s hands and Wednesday needed Keiren Westwood to make two excellent saves in the final minutes.
We are six points behind and I think there are probably too many teams in there so it’s going to take a monumental effort.Steve Bruce
Bruce said: “We are six points behind and I think there are probably too many teams in there so it’s going to take a monumental effort.
“But when we did it with Birmingham, we had 12 games to go and went unbeaten and came from nowhere, 15th to scrape in and we got up so who knows?
“You can’t give up hope but it’s going to be a big ask and there are big clubs in and around there.”
On the disallowed goal, Bruce admitted: “I haven’t seen it back and that’s being honest. The referee took an eternity to give it so there was a doubt there, that’s for sure, whether he’s got the right decision, I don’t know.
“It was close and a little break like that would have been great for Winnall who has been out for a long time.”
Derby manager Frank Lampard, whose side occupy the final play-off spot, said: “It was possibly a fair result but the way we pushed at the end and the chances we had it felt like we were the ones trying to win the game.”
Derby County: Carson, Bogle, Keogh, Tomori, Malone, Huddlestone, Johnson, Harry Wilson (Nugent 72), Holmes, Bennett (Jozefzoon 35), Waghorn (Marriott 68). Unused substitutes: Wisdom, Roos, Cole, Bird.
Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood, Iorfa, Lees, Hector, Palmer, Bannan, Hutchinson, Reach, Boyd (Winnall 62), Aarons (Fox 90), Fletcher (Nuhiu 52). Unused substitutes: Pelupessy, Thorniley, Marco Matias, Dawson.
Referee: K Stroud (Hampshire).