Preston North End 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1
It's a very delicate art trying to capture the promotion aspirations of Wolves manager Mick McCarthy. Right from day one, McCarthy has played down his side's chances but he does not want this rebuilt team being pooh-poohed as genuine play-off hopefuls.
"Of course I want to be in the play-offs," said McCarthy after his men handed Preston their second home defeat of the season. "I've had a bit of expectation on my shoulders all my career. Millwall, that wasn't easy. A World Cup, promotion with Sunderland. It doesn't bother me and I hope it doesn't bother the players and it shouldn't.
"It's still a bit two steps forward, one step back sometimes. We were all a bit glum after the draw with Plymouth last week. Now, we're on a high again but I'm not really worried about what everyone else has done."
After inspiring a Lazarus-like performance from Seyi Olofinjana at Deepdale, the man they call 'Merlin' is starting to make a lot of people take notice. "Maybe I should get into faith-healing," joked McCarthy, unwittingly at the expense of his predecessor.
"Seyi had got a sore ankle and our physio told me yesterday that he wasn't fit. But 24 hours can be a wonderful thing with a fit, young guy like that. I told him I needed him out there and he was excellent."
Impressive though his top scorer was in defying that injury to turn in such a powerful midfield performance, capped by his early match-winning volley from the edge of the box, it's up front where Wolves are catching the eye.
The last time Wolves came to Deepdale and won was February 2003, when goals from George Ndah and Kenny Miller accelerated the bandwagon towards promotion.
In only three games together for their new club, Andy Keogh and Stephen Ward are already starting to look just as effective. Even from a manager who has one of the hottest properties in the league on his books in David Nugent, there were covetous looks from North End manager Paul Simpson.
"We were simply out-thought by two good strikers," he said. "We were outrun, outfought and outplayed by a side who had real hunger, spearheaded by the two young lads up front and it's not hard to see why they've won six out of eight away."
Ward and Keogh were each twice involved in Wolves' early winning goal, linking together to set up Michael McIndoe on the left before each had a shot blocked prior to Olofinjana claiming his seventh goal of the season.
And, after a foul on Keogh got him booked before the break, home defender Kelvin Wilson earned a straight red card for a professional foul on the slighter of Wolves' two young Dubliners late on.
"What I got from Ward and Keogh, I've been looking for all season long," said McCarthy. "We've had bits and pieces but never a collective performance from a pair as good as that.
"All season long, I've wanted to play 4-4-2 and maybe just not had the right blend but they have got in there, run the channels and linked up well.
"Andy Keogh's a good player. That's why I dipped into the biscuit barrel and spent the budget on him, but I wouldn't take anything away from Stephen Ward's performance.
"In this league, it's about your two centre-forwards. If we handle theirs better than they handle ours, then we're going to cause problems."
It was David Nugent's two classy goals that had won North End the points at Molineux in August, to hand McCarthy his first defeat as Wolves boss. But, this time, the #6 million-rated striker was overshadowed by two men who cost little more than a tenth of that between them. "We didn't give Nugent much of a sniff," said McCarthy. "But ours were a constant threat and worked so well that their guy felt the need to bring him down and got sent off."
Admittedly, had Michael Ricketts not bent a first-half free kick against the bar and full back Graham Alexander not clouted a post after the break with an explosive right-foot shot, it might have been a different story.
But the overall picture was of a classy Wolves performance and it left McCarthy feeling pretty pleased. His most satisfying win to date? "We won at Derby, don't forget and, just like at Derby, we repaid the compliment of being beaten at home by them.
"I've had some good results here in the past, most notably with Sunderland to end that losing run and this comes close to that.
"But it's always the most satisfying win when it's the most recent and, as good a performance as we put in at Derby, I thought we were good value today."
Scorer: Olofinjana (8).
PRESTON NORTH END (4-3-3): Lonergan; Alexander, Wilson, Chilvers, Hill; Sedgwick, McKenna, Pugh (Mellor, 80); Ormerod (Whaley, 16), M Ricketts, Nugent, Subs: Henderson (gk), Dichio, St Ledger
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS (4-4-2): Murray; Henry, N Collins, Edwards, McNamara; Kightly, Olofinjana, Potter, McIndoe (M Davies, 80); Keogh, Ward. Subs: Budtz (gk), Bothroyd, Little, L Collins.
Referee: G Laws (Whitley Bay).
Booking: Preston — Wilson (foul).
Sending-off: Preston — Wilson (professional foul).