Charlton travel north to Spotland on Saturday for what all Addicks fans will desperately hope, is not their final game of the season. As Rochdale's most famous export, Gracie Fields, once sang, 'Now is the Hour'.
Not since 1999 when Sheffield Wednesday visited the Valley on the last day of our first season in the new Premier League, have we faced an all or nothing final fixture of the regular season. On that occasion the maths was simple, a Charlton win and a Southampton loss or draw, and we were safe. Any other pair of results and we were heading back to tier two. Early on, news came through that Southampton had gone one up, setting the tone for an ultimately disappointing afternoon.
Now, things are a little more complicated, but the good news is matters are firmly in our hands. The maths does present the frightening, if unlikely, prospect of Charlton and Plymouth finishing with identical records and facing a play-off for the play-offs. Let's not go there. One point at Rochdale and job done!
There's an irony if we cast our mind back to this season’s equivalent fixture last November. Charlton lay 4th in the table, Rochdale 22nd. In 23rd - second from bottom - were our play-off rivals Plymouth. In the period since then, the Devonshire side have averaged just under 2 points per game as they have spectacularly climbed up the league, compared to our 1.3. Our dismal winter threatening to scupper completely the play off spot we are more than capable of, only for our recent revival under Lee Bowyer to keep those hopes alive. We only need one point!
And we should take a rare opportunity to allow ourselves some hope - lots of it. Ask Charlton fans in August to nominate who would be manager at the end of the season, and in the language of BBC's 'Pointless', Lee Bowyer would have added £250 to the jackpot. But the decision, however it was made, looks inspirational. At a time when, off the field, the on-going limbo would be laughable if it wasn't risking the future of the Club we love, Bowyer has energised a group of undoubtedly talented players who had seemed to have fitted the maxim that the sum of the parts equalled less than the whole.
The team now look tougher, more committed and better organised than before. More flexible formations have concentrated on giving Josh Magennis the support he has clearly needed all season, alongside getting the best from players who have previously been on the fringe. The results achieved recently, in particular against teams we may have expected to find difficult, have lifted us into 6th place. On Saturday, we only need one point!
We must not forget our opponents are not 'on the beach' yet either. They face a drop to League Two next season needing to better Oldham's result at Northampton, to save their bacon (which we assume they buy at the local Co-op, obviously).
Injury news from New Eltham suggests Saturday's team will closely resemble the 11 that finished against Blackburn. Anfernee Dijksteel may be one who's freshly available but it would be surprising if he started, maybe he could make the bench … just in case there's a need for all-hands-to-the-pump defending. Surely not? After all, a draw would be enough!
So whether you are travelling the 200+ miles up the M6, settling down in front of Sky's live coverage, keeping in touch on the radio/online or whatever, a nervous 90 minutes awaits. Or knowing us, 98 minutes. But surely Lee Bowyer's newly inspired side can deal with all the pressure and expectation and deliver a play-off place. Just think how nervous we’ll be then?
And, just in case it's not been mentioned earlier … we do only need a point!