THEY say a week is a long time in politics ... in football it is even longer!
Before the trip to Morecambe last weekend, Hartlepool United were eight points from safety and seemingly heading into non-league football.
Yet, almost from nowhere, Ronnie Moore’s rejuvenated side has put together a string of results that almost puts them in pole position to stay up.
Momentum is a wonderful thing in sport, and finally, Pools now have it.
Three wins and three clean sheets has not only pulled Pools to within a point of safety with eight games to play.
But it has also pulled several other teams right back into the relegation mix.
And with another home game against Cambridge United to come this Saturday, Pools could actually be out of the relegation zone this time next week.
Who’d have thought that after the late defeat to Burton Albion?
Moore believes if you work hard then you will create your own luck and his players have certainly worked themselves into the ground this week.
And with it has come a little luck, Pools benefiting from an own goal and two penalties.
Moore has always been positive that this side can stay up, publicly at least, although privately, at times, he must have feared the worst.
But now the players are believing it too.
Fight, spirit, determination – all those qualities were again present.
Back-to-back wins has relieved some of the pressure and while the football isn’t great, the fans won’t care as long as they stay up.
Prior to Morecambe, David Mirfin told SportMail it was time for the players to stop talking and start performing, while Michael Duckworth admitted careers were on the line.
Well, give them full credit, they have certainly delivered.
Building on the new found momentum is now key.
And there are positive signs, for starters the defence has kept three clean sheets on the trot for the first time since last February.
That is a solid foundation and while the team is still crying out for a regular goalscorer the goals are now, at least, being spread out.
They certainly have the backing of the fans too. Victoria Park hosted the second largest crowd of the season thanks to reduced ticket prices.
While it was a nervy atmosphere first-half, the fans spurred the side on to victory, buoyed by the early penalty converted by Brad Walker.
The transformation in fortunes has coincided with Walker’s return.
Morecambe away was Walker’s first start in 2015 and he looks to have benefited from his extended spell out.
While not back to his best, just yet, he is certainly showing signs it isn’t far away. The 18-year-old covered a lot of ground and confidently stuck away the penalty to give his side the crucial three points.
A boot in the face from Junior Brown shortly afterwards brought Walker back down to earth with a bump though, the Mansfield winger shown a straight red card.
But the star of the show was Nicky Featherstone. He was immense.
The 26-year-old was non-stop, all over the pitch, dictating play from central midfield and helping to up the tempo.
He has a calmness on the ball and can pick a pass too.
Not only that but he also won the penalty after finding himself in the unusual position of left wing, brought down in the box by Lee Beevers.
Featherstone was again in the holding role, as Moore named an unchanged 3-5-2 line-up for the visit of Adam Murray’s side.
The only change saw on-loan Middlesbrough winger Jordan Jones named on the bench after his loan deal was extended, with no place for out of favour Jack Compton and Marvin Morgan.
Pools showed plenty of intent in the opening 20 minutes but it was the visitors that went closest. Brown and defender Michael Raynes both headed wide from corners.
Pools were dealt a major blow just past the half-hour mark, Scott Harrison, who had earlier taken a heavy knock to the head was struggling to breathe.
At one stage it looked like he was going to throw up on the pitch before being escorted off.
Moore reshuffled, with Michael Duckworth going left-back as he switched to a 4-4-2 formation.
Harrison’s departure unsettled Pools’ rhythm as both sides struggled to dominate possession – the ball spending most of the time in the air.
Mansfield – who know every trick in the book – looked comfortable, with Pools needing to up the tempo.
And the game burst into life two minutes after the re-start.
Featherstone was felled by Beevers and Walker sent Pidgeley the wrong way to put Pools 1-0 in front of the Town End.
Brown was then red carded, Pools were finally getting some luck.
They’d earned it mind, against an overly physical Mansfield side, who looked rattled.
Billy Kee – who pushed his own teammate at one point – and Raynes were both booked for the visitors as the pressure cooker cranked up a little further.
Pools fought hard, again giving everything for the cause in what was still an open game, with both sides pressing forward.
Clear chances for Pools were scarce – Jones seeing his sidefooted shot easily saved – but they had Scott Flinders to thank for keeping them in the game.
The captain saved low from Key’s free-kick and Reggie Lambe’s effort before producing a wondersave to deny Chris Clements.
Once again it was tight but battling Pools stood firm to secure another three crucial points.
Pools have been bottom since Wednesday, October 22, yet on Saturday teatime the table had never looked so good.
Still bottom yes, but safety is finally within grasp. There is nothing to fear.
The Great Escape is within sight.