MELBOURNE Victory's season is on the line on Saturday night when the team expected to be challenging for the title faces a virtual elimination final against the Newcastle Jets at AAMI Park.
But it is not just Victory's immediate future that could be decided in those 90 minutes.
The fate of interim coach Jim Magilton surely hangs in the balance. He has one win in eight games and failure to beat the Jets would leave Victory not only having to win its last three matches, but also rely on teams above it failing.
But managing director Richard Wilson yesterday put a different spin on Magilton's future, saying that while reaching the finals and winning games was important, it wasn't necessarily critical to secure the job.
He can make the position his on a permanent basis if he convinces the board that he is the man to lead a rebuilding of the club.
''We have four games left to go and while we are still in with a chance of making the finals, it's fairer to Jim to let him get on with managing the team and trying to win games,'' Wilson said.
''He has made a big impression on everyone here with his energy, enthusiasm, planning and preparation and we feel he has got the team playing better. But for a couple of unlucky results when we drew instead of winning with late goals against, we would be in a much stronger position.
''While the results are important, they won't be the only thing determining a decision we make about him in the future.''
Victory has several out-of-contract older players whose future will lie elsewhere at season's end.
If the Irishman can show he is the man to bring in the right players and restructure the playing list and overhaul the football operations, he might get the nod irrespective of what happens in the last month of the season.
Magilton came in to replace the sacked Mehmet Durakovic with 12 matches in the 27-game home-and-away season remaining.
His brief was simple: fix up the mess, turn a talented but under-achieving squad into winners, and rescue a season that was in danger of being frittered away.
After eight games, the bare results have not improved.
The former Northern Ireland international midfielder has presided over two defeats, five draws and only one win.
The victory was an impressive-enough performance against league leaders Central Coast Mariners although it should be remembered that Graham Arnold's side played out the last half-hour of that match with 10 men.
Magilton has got the team playing with more drive, fire and energy and it has been unlucky: had it been able to close out games against Sydney and Gold Coast, it would be four points better off, while its heroics against Brisbane when it went down 3-2 last week in a pulsating game won Victory plenty of admirers.
But the bottom line is not flattering: under Magilton, Victory has picked up eight points out of a possible 24, a poor return from a squad boasting three players called into the Socceroo squad for the World Cup qualifier at AAMI Park against the Saudis on Wednesday night.
With all its stars in the starting line-up - Harry Kewell, Carlos Hernandez and Archie Thompson - Victory's failure to beat the Gold Coast's collection of teenagers and battle-scarred veterans on Saturday night could come to stand as a haunting symbol of its season as a whole.
The biggest club in the land was expected to overwhelm teams with its attacking flair but it has struggled to assert itself.
With only four games left, the league table doesn't lie, and the fact that Victory has won only five games and drawn 11 speaks volumes about its lack of a killer punch. And perhaps its second tier of players is not as good as everyone expected.
Even the stars have been patchy. Kewell recently gave himself 3½ out of 10 for his performances this season.
Magilton has impressed the Victory players. He just needs to get results on the field, as well as off it.