Martin Taylor says that the mental pressure of being entrenched in the relegation zone has had a draining effect on Birmingham City.
Steve Bruce's side have been stuck in the bottom three since October and, despite their loss at Middlesbrough, they can still leapfrog West Bromwich Albion next Saturday.
The two sides meet at St Andrew's in the biggest match of the season thus far and Taylor (below) was focused on the task ahead within half an hour of the final whistle on Saturday.
"We are aware of the importance of next Saturday's game," he said. "It is an old cliché to describe it as a six-pointer but it pretty much is.
"If we win next week it will take us out of the bottom three and both sides have some tough games coming up.
"Next Saturday will define our season. If we lose we are six points behind them and if we win we climb above them and, more importantly, out of the bottom three.
"To get six points back with the games coming up means we are going to have to go to places like Wigan and Villa and win. We can do that but it will make it a hell of a lot easier if there isn't so much pressure on us.
"It is draining being in the bottom three for four or five months. You come to a game like this at Middlesbrough where you have so much of the ball and, if we were in mid-table and had more confidence, then maybe we could get a better result out of it."
On chances created and ball retention Birmingham were worth a point. However, they failed to score and Taylor said the players were left deflated. He said: "We dominated the second half without creating any clear-cut chances."