Blues were effectively just three minutes from safety. Craig Gardner’s equaliser at Spurs took them out of the relegation zone on goal difference.
And you backed them to see things through after that 79th minute strike – they were performing well and with an iron will.
Then at Molineux, the ball dropped to Stephen Hunt 87 minutes into Wolves match against Blackburn Rovers and he scored a peach of a curler.
The relegation picture thus changed for an incredible 14th time on Survival Sunday. Wolves were out of the mire on goals scored, Blues were back in it.
Realisation, desperation, panic set in. Blues had Roger Johnson bursting down the right wing, trying to cross into a penalty box containing Curtis Davies.
As Premier League status slipped away, Blues were left gambling and chasing a goal that didn’t come.
Leaving themselves exposed, five Spurs players broke. Barry Ferguson and Keith Fahey shuffled back into the centre-half positions and Roman Pavlyuchenko, with virtually the last kick of the match, let rip with a shot that reared up off Fahey’s shin and crashed in off the underside of the crossbar. Blues were done for, 2-1.
That’s how we will remember Blues’ sign-off to the 2010-11 season. Cruelly, almost as if the Gods were teasing and mocking, they were so close, but so far.
Damage was done in the preceding weeks, of course. But, in essence on the last day, three minutes...
The pain of White Hart Lane will only go away once Blues get back there. And this third relegation in the last four Premier League campaigns could prove the most testing and problematic.
What Blues need now more than anything is firm, clear leadership and stability.
Alex McLeish says he’s ready to meet the challenge of masterminding promotion at the first attempt. He’s a proud guy who is hurting and, if anything, will be galvanised to atone for Blues’ top-flight fate.
Blues stood by Steve Bruce when they went down in 2005-06 and he learned lessons, was refocused and got Blues straight back. McLeish has also done it before, in 2008-09.
He has also delivered the club’s first major trophy in 48 years. He’s no mug, he’s an intelligent football person so it made sense to let him get on with it. Carson Yeung and Peter Pannu didn’t have anyone in mind they believed was better suited, so they announced that McLeish would be staying.
McLeish knows supporters and the board want to see a more dynamic Blues, more goals, thrills and spills. Blues got promotion in 2008-09 by grinding it out; don’t think he doesn’t want to alter the template.
By clearing the decks playing-wise, a rebuild can begin to this end. Many players are going to leave, and have already gone.
But what is critical to Blues’ chances is keeping the best performers, showing some courage not to cave in to the predators and, if need be, telling players they are being held to their contracts.
Sebastian Larsson and James McFadden got the hump when Blues wouldn’t sell them after the last relegation and although neither particularly stood out as the team bounced back, a statement of intent was made.
Newcastle recovered their Premier League status because they ran amok in the Championship following relegation with Joey Barton, Kevin Nolan, Jose Enrique, Fabricio Coloccini, Steven Taylor, Jonas Gutierrez and Andy Carroll.
It’s no secret: if you have better quality than the rest, over 46 games that quality will out.
Blues’ spine has to remain. Ben Foster, Scott Dann, Roger Johnson and Liam Ridgewell have to be retained. Craig Gardner and Cameron Jerome too.
Up front, Blues have to bring in a minimum of three strikers, on the assumption Jerome stays – he could actually be the only senior forward left this summer. Blues can’t leave themselves short of firepower. Goals get you up.
Nikola Zigic loves living here and if recovers fitness and has the appetite for it, he could be a monster as an option in second-tier combat.
Blues would then need to ‘fill in’ around a strong nucleus and acquire players with energy and legs, pace, hunger. Jordon Mutch, Nathan Redmond and Akwasi Asante also need to be assimilated as fully-fledged squad members.
Certainly, relegation brings financial pain. It’s a £40 million or so drop in revenue, offset to some degree by parachute payments of £48 million over four seasons (starting with £16 million next season). Some players might have to be sold due to economic necessity.
But a complete firesale to generate money would be an absolute disaster and only heighten concern about the financial state of Birmingham International Holdings Ltd, Blues’ parent company.
We already know from both Yeung and Pannu that there is not going to be bucketloads of money available.
So much depends on the resources and being bold enough to go into the Championship with the right tools, the better tools than the rest, to do the job.