Sunderland’s St Mary’s Stadium capitulation has prolonged the Southampton Champions League place sit in for another week.
It was just the latest dolly of a fixture in what has been a dream start to the season for Ralph Wiggum lookalike and freshman Premier League manager Ronald Koeman.
The Saints are now as short as 8/1 joint-seventh favourites for a top-four finish, but they are just four games from a major reality check.
First up the distinctly clement climate of their campaign continues against Stoke, Hull, Leicester and Aston Villa.
However, fifth in line to test their best-in-the-division rearguard are reigning champions Manchester City, who act as the gatekeepers to a nine-game spell that is likely to see the Saints cut down to size in no uncertain terms.
Between their meeting with the Citizens on November 30th and the January 10th Koeman’s high-flying troops must play Arsenal (twice), Manchester United (twice), Everton and Chelsea.
It ranks a significant upgrade on the calibre of adversary they’ve chewed up and spat out so far and one that could see them found out to an extent.
The theory gains extra credence from the fact that the Saints have lost the two games they’ve played against last season’s top-six sides so far.
A Liverpool team that have subsequently proved a shadow of their 2013/14 incarnations downed them at Anfield, while Tottenham (notorious for post-Europa League losses) beat them 1-0 after a midweek tussle with Besiktas.
Of the five teams who have yielded Southampton points, just one finished the previous campaign above the Premier League equator.
Even that was a Newcastle outfit who spent the period between January and the end of the season impersonating relegation fodder.
Arsenal and Liverpool may be far shorter than the St Mary’s side in bwin’s top-four finish betting at 53/100 and evens respectively, but both are within five points of third place as it stands.
What’s more they’ve already got more of their clashes with the best sides out the way than the south coast outfit.
The Gunners have already tussled with four of the their fellow 2013/14 top-six finishers, while Liverpool have met three.