Without a win in their last six Aviva Premiership matches, London Irish's decline has added a twist to this season's relegation battle.
The Exiles latest defeat was at the hands of champions Harlequins at Twickenham - a game that will not feature in many highlight reels but accurately illustrated where Irish's flaws lie and how they were exposed.
A season of rotten luck and discontent at Sunbury, which began with Joe Ansbro's broken neck against Munster, has twisted and turned through contract speculation, the loss of scrum-half Tomás O'Leary and the leakiest defence in England, with defence consultant Shaun Edwards departing on New Year's Day.
Irish need a break, but so far fortune has been against them - you need look no further than Tom Casson's winning try for Harlequins in Round 7 for an example.
In last Saturday's re-match in the Big Game 5, the Exiles attacking flair that had become their trademark was painfully absent. Their scrum buckled and indiscipline yielded points. For all of their gunpowder in Sailosi Tagicakibau and Jonathan Joseph, none of it was used.
The side that reached a Premiership final and Heineken Cup semi-final in recent years is quickly gathering mythical status, but Irish have no time to look back.
Sale's win over Worcester on Friday closed the gap that has kept them adrift nearly all season to just one point - that one digit being Irish's try bonus point obtained against Northampton in their best performance of the season so far.
Forgetting the circus surrounding John Mitchell; if Danny Cipriani can produce the same composure that he displayed against Worcester then Sale with their personnel can stay in the Premiership.
For a side who many were eager to write off, the deficit between the drop and safety is nearly all but gone. Monday's recruitment of Daniel Braid will add another experienced head for the rest of the season, one more member of a squad that has never been short of talent.
By May, talent might prove to be the deciding factor, which brings London Welsh back into the equation. Nine points clear of Sale with 12 games to go, Welsh have been a real surprise package. Their performances have surpassed all expectations, but cracks are emerging.
Saturday's defeat to London Wasps was their heaviest defeat since the 40-3 thumping from Harlequins - it was also their third successive Premiership match without a try.
The boot of Gordon Ross has been crucial with 108 points so far this season but cannot be solely relied upon. As other Premiership defences continue to digest more video on how to stop their new opponents, the opportunities will diminish.
Squad depth and injuries will also play a part over the next five months, meaning that whilst for now Welsh have a cushion, they are not safe yet.
The battle between all three sides is likely to be decided by the visits of Sale and Welsh to the Madejski Stadium, as the scrap for points continues leading up to May 4th.
Agony for supporters - thrilling for the neutrals.
by Ben Coles