After 186 frustrating days, Sheffield United finally got to experience a winning feeling that had not just deserted them but appeared to have packed up and left the country.
Billy Sharp’s second-half penalty was enough to secure all three points against Newcastle on Tuesday night and give the Premier League’s bottom side the faintest glimmer of hope that they can stave off a relegation they seemed to be heading towards in record time.
The win – Sheffield United’s first in 18 attempts in the Premier League this season – moved them to five points, more than doubling their previous tally and leaving them nine points from safety.
That is still a sizeable gap – and they have played at least a game more than their nearest rivals – but Tuesday’s win has given United’s players something that had increasingly looked to have deserted them – hope.
“It feels good,” said Blades boss Chris Wilder. “We should have got more results, we know that, but the performance was good.
“We played with the identity that has been the way we have played for the last few years.
“We’ve had a load of tight games and we’ll take it. I was looking for my car keys and to take up another sport if we’d thrown it away in added time.”
Can the Blades produce the great escape?
Sheffield United’s start has been the worst to an English top-flight season in history, even after this victory, meaning they will still need to produce an incredible turnaround to pull off a great escape.
The lowest points total with which a side has ever stayed up in a 38-game season in the Premier League is 34 – West Brom surviving on that mark in 2005.
The Baggies’ six victories that season is also the lowest wins total a team has picked up and still managed to stay up.
To hit even those targets, Sheffield United will need to pick up 29 points from their remaining 20 games – a tally that in itself means they will probably need rather more than the six wins the Baggies managed.
“Everyone has written us off – the pressure is off,” striker Sharp told Sky Sports.
“We’ve not had a great time in the last few months but we’ve got to keep our heads high now. We’re good enough to do it.”
So the survival bid starts now?
It does, although United fans may want to savour Tuesday’s win a little longer before checking their upcoming fixtures.
On Saturday they host Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham before travelling to Premier League leaders Manchester United on Wednesday, 27 January and then heading to Etihad Stadium to take on Manchester City.
As runs go they don’t come much tougher. But if they can pull off a shock result or two then some may really start to believe that the seemingly impossible could happen.