Middlesbrough face Manchester City at the Riverside Stadium on Sunday afternoon with their Premier League status hanging by a thread, giving themselves a much-needed shot in the arm with victory over Sunderland in midweek.
Boro still trail 17th-placed Hull City by six points with four games left to play and face a daunting fixture list, beginning with the visit of a City side desperate to hold down fourth place in the table.
It is easy to discredit the Smoggies' 1-0 win over Sunderland as merely being local bragging rights picked up in a shootout between the division's worst two sides, which in many ways it was, but it does at least give Steve Agnew and his players just a sliver of hope.
While bottom-placed Sunderland can officially be relegated this weekend should results go against them, Boro know that should the dream scenario come true over the next few days they will be within three points of safety - emphasis on the word "dream", because it will take an awful lot for that to come to fruition.
The 3-0 win over fellow strugglers Swansea City on December 17 feels like a lifetime ago now as far as Boro fans are concerned, a result that not only lifted them into 14th place in the table but also six points above the Welsh outfit.
There was always going to be a long way to go before supporters could breathe easily, yet that win at the Riverside pre-Christmas very much provided hope that the right formula had finally been discovered by then-boss Aitor Karanka - goals added to a very strong defence.
A winless run stretching four months and a total of 16 games then followed, only ended against North-East rivals Sunderland on Wednesday night, seeing Boro slip into the dropzone in March and then out of sight of those above them.
Having finally got off the mark for 2017, making them the last team in Europe's five major leagues to do so, Middlesbrough can now at least go into Sunday's meeting with City with a little more confidence, in the knowledge that they can pick up three points on their day.
Man City will put up a completely different fight to the one the offered by the Black Cats, of course, and the Smoggies have not followed up any of their previous 11 wins at this level with another victory immediately after, yet at the very least their campaign does remain alive heading into May.
The good news for Middlesbrough, in terms of past history, is that the last time they won successive games in the Premier League Man City were their opponents in the second of the matches, earning one of their most memorable results when triumphing 8-1 here in 2008.
Momentum looks to be extremely tough to find at this late stage in proceedings, though, with Chelsea and Liverpool also to come away from home in their final five matches, requiring wins in near enough all of those to overhaul the teams above them.
Recent form in Premier League: DLDLLW
On the back of one of the most uneventful Manchester derby clashes in recent memory, the Citizens are left with their fate in their own hands in pursuit of a top-four finish - their minimum target for the season when Pep Guardiola took charge last summer.
Merely finishing fourth in the league and failing to add any silverware to the cabinet, making this the first trophyless campaign in Guardiola's managerial career to date, is a very poor return for the club's owners who again spent big last summer.
The mitigating circumstance is that a couple of those star names brought in during Guardiola's first weeks in Manchester, Gabriel Jesus and Ilkay Gundogan, have barely featured, while the squad was also allowed to age without reconstruction by previous managers.
It is now down to the Catalan coach to reshape this group of players, particularly in the full-back areas where he has so often relied on pace and quality, but a failure to guarantee Champions League football to potential players may prove a major sticking point.
Too often this season City have looked strong against teams around them only to be hard done by, most recently failing to break down United on Thursday night despite seeing nearly three-quarters of the ball, just four days on from somehow failing to beat Arsenal at Wembley Stadium.
That loss at the national stadium, a ground usually so kind to Guardiola, effectively ensured that this will go down as a season to forget for the Citizens no matter what happens between now and the end of May, but they can at least take some comfort from finishing in third or fourth.
City are now just two points off Liverpool in third with a game in hand to play, while also sitting a point in front of Man United who are still to face fifth-placed Arsenal in the remaining weeks of the season - something has to give in that one.
Guardiola's charges have a nice run to see out the season, too, facing relegation-threatened Boro and four teams essentially left battling for position in mid-table, with three of those remaining fixtures to be played on home soil.
The Etihad Stadium has hardly been a fortress this term, though, winning just half of their 16 league games there, yet away from home it is a different story entirely - 11 away wins in 2016-17 their best ever return, while a draw or better at the Riverside on Sunday will make this their most profitable Premier League season in terms of points gathered on the road.
Recent form in Premier League: DDLWWD
Recent form (all competitions): DLWWLD
Claudio Bravo was stretchered off against Man United and is now expected to miss the remainder of the season, meaning another chance for Wilfredo Caballero - one of those out of contract this summer - to impress in goal.
The Citizens were given a major boost in the goalless draw with the return to action of Gabriel Jesus ahead of schedule, two months on from fracturing his metatarsal, but David Silva sat that one out and is unlikely to return this weekend.
Vincent Kompany has managed to get a string of games under his belt, meanwhile, starting three matches in a row, and with John Stones still nursing an injury problem he could well feature from the off once more alongside Nicolas Otamendi.
In terms of the hosts, Boro can call upon Gaston Ramirez following his return from a one-match ban, but defender Daniel Ayala is carrying an injury sustained against Sunderland which forced him off early.
An option in attack for the home side is Alvaro Negredo, who netted nine league goals in 31 appearances during his one season at the Etihad Stadium.
Middlesbrough possible starting lineup:
Guzan; Chambers, Bernardo, Gibson, Friend; De Roon, Clayton, Forshaw; Downing, Negredo, Ramirez
Manchester City possible starting lineup:
Caballero; Navas, Otamendi, Kompany, Clichy; De Bruyne, Toure, Fernandinho; Sterling, Aguero, Sane
Head To Head
Middlesbrough have lost just one of their last 10 league encounters at home to Man City, winning seven and drawing two of those, including that aforementioned 8-1 thrashing here nine years ago.
The Citizens have won three of the last five meetings overall, however, earning a 2-0 victory on Teesside in January's FA Cup tie after being held to a surprise 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium in November's league fixture.
Sergio Aguero netted in both of those previous games this season, but he heads into this weekend's clash on the back of a disappointing evening against United last time out, failing to convert from any of his nine shots.
We say: Middlesbrough 0-1 Manchester City
The Riverside Stadium has witnessed fewer goals than any other top-flight ground this season, with just 33 being scored in all from a league-low 109 attempts on target, while only bottom side Sunderland have accrued fewer points than Middlesbrough from home fixtures. Not a great sign for the Smoggies, then, although they have kept more clean sheets than their opponents in 2016-17 and will be desperate to frustrate their opponents for a second time this term in this latest tussle.