Defeat at Swansea City left reigning Premier League champions Chelsea clinging on to their ignominy-sparing spot in the division’s top half.
Just three points now divide the Blues from rising Bournemouth, who entertain the west Londoners in two weekend’s time.
In winning 2-1 at Aston Villa last time out, the Cherries have now won four of their last six fixtures and will realistically consider a top-ten finish attainable after cementing their top-flight status for another season.
Chelsea’s form is starkly contrasted to that of Eddie Howe’s men as they struggle to snap out of a Champions League exit-related stupor.
Since Paris Saint-Germain sent them packing from the continent’s premier competition, the Blues have failed to win three of four games, with a hardly-counts conquest of Villa their only cause for celebration across this spell.
If this slumping form isn’t sufficiently strong enough a convincer to ward punters off the 1/5 about the Blues finishing in the top ten, combining it with their final six fixtures must do the trick.
Three of the current top four, including first-place Leicester City and closest challengers Tottenham Hotspur must visit Stamford Bridge before the season is out, while they must also travel to Liverpool and relegation-battling Sunderland in addition to Bournemouth.
It’s not difficult to imagine Chelsea, in the form they’re in and with no obvious motivation, losing at least four of these games. Doing so would create an opportunity for the Cherries – 12/1 for a top ten finish – to creep into the upper echelon.
Three of their final five matches are at home, all against teams with nothing to play for in Liverpool, Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion. Their trip to Everton sounds daunting, but only Aston Villa have won fewer base camp battles than the Toffees this term.
Furthermore, their chances of prevailing in these four winnable games have been boosted by the return from a serious knee injury of talisman Callum Wilson, who came off the bench against the Villans last time.
Should Wilson rediscover the scoring touch with which he started the season – he struck five times in his opening seven Premier League outings – Bournemouth’s chances of landing a top-ten finish at the expense of Chelsea are greatly improved.