IN the space of eight days Hartlepool United went from being the odds-on favourites to be relegated to the in-form side in Sky Bet League Two.
Under the guidance of Ronnie Moore, Pools won three times to cut the gap to safety from eight points to a single point with just eight games left to play.
And with games against relegation rivals Carlisle United and York City still to come, the club’s destiny is in its own hands and the Great Escape is very much within sight.
But what has sparked the upturn in fortunes?
Pools reporter RICHARD MENNEAR takes a look at the reasons behind the dramatic turnaround and why there is now genuine hope the club can beat the drop.
1) Ronnie Moore:
From the moment the ex-Tranmere Rovers, Oldham Athletic and Rotherham United boss arrived, Moore has impressed and it didn’t take him long to see what was going wrong.
The misfiring strikers, inconsistent wingers and haphazard defenders all faced his wrath, ‘Ronnie’s Rocket’ became a regular headline on the pages of SportMail.
His threats the players would soon be stacking shelves for a living have finally had an impact, and the players are reacting to his no-nonsense methods.
Moore isn’t afraid of making the BIG decisions either, something Marlon Harewood, Jack Compton, Brad Walker and Michael Duckworth will all testify to.
Previously, players not performing have been allowed to go on doing just that, not under Moore. If you’re not doing the job, you won’t be in the team. Or even on the bench in the most recent case of Compton and Marvin Morgan.
Moore, surely a shoo-in for manager of the month if not season if they do stay up - tells it how it is and the players have responded in style.
2) Formation tweak reaps rewards:
For too long struggling Pools stuck to a rigid 4-4-2 formation, with the side unable to adapt to the opposition’s methods and paying the price as a result.
Positive Moore was always adamant 3-5-2 was a flexible formation that would suit Pools and the personnel available to him.
This past week has proved him right.
Morecambe and then Oxford United couldn’t break a resilient Pools down and once Moore’s side had taken the lead, they looked relatively comfortable, albeit it has been tense and frantic at times.
4-3-3 has also worked but when Moore lost the pace of Rakish Bingham up front, he reverted to 3-5-2 away and an attacking 4-4-2 at home, in the main.
His tactical nous has reaped big rewards.
3) Form of fringe players sparks revival bid:
A few weeks back Pools looked doomed. Injuries to Michael Woods, Matthew Bates and Scott Fenwick hit the side hard and a run of four defeats in five games chipped away at survival hopes, with the club eight points adrift after the late Burton defeat.
But their injuries presented an opportunity to Nicky Featherstone and Brad Walker, and they have repaid Moore’s faith.
Featherstone was MOM in the Mansfield win, while Walker looks to be getting back to his best after playing in all three victories.
4) A solid foundation (finally):
Moore was critical of his defence in his first few weeks, claiming the full backs had never been taught how to defend.
Well, the defence as a whole has certainly improved, with clean sheets in the last three games and plenty of fight, commitment and heart on show.
Comfortably the lowest scorers in League Two, it is vital the Pools defence continues its current form to help chip away at the horrendous goal difference of -28.
5) Impact of Ronnie Moore’s signings:
Moore quickly realised new, better players were needed and his signings have, in the main, improved the side.
David Mirfin has been outstanding, Scott Harrison (who had previously been on loan before Moore joined) has been a revelation since signing permanently, Reading loanee Aaron Tshibola has impressed in central midfield and Marvin Morgan did at least score the winner against Northampton Town before falling out of favour.
Ryan Bird worked hard and got his rewards, two goals in six games, before his form saw him recalled. He will be a huge miss and with top league scorer Fenwick still injured, Moore now needs to pull another rabbit out of the hat before Thursday’s loan deadline.
His previous track record suggests he will.
And finally...the fans.
More than 300 travelled to Morecambe with a strong following making the long midweek trip to Oxford. That was followed by the second largest home crowd against Mansfield, with a similar number expected for Saturday’s visit of Cambridge United.
Belief and faith has been restored. Now it is up to the players to maintain the momentum.