A Monday morning summons to the manager’s office looks set to await City striker Lewis Grabban after his 26th minute dismissal found the Canaries squandering a gilt-edged chance to force their way back into the automatic promotion reckoning.
With Middlesbrough losing 4-3 in an equally extraordinary encounter away at Fulham, an away victory at the New York Stadium could have kept the promotion pot boiling right up until the final Saturday of the season.
Particularly if Gary Hooper’s spectacular second-half strike had yielded the most unlikely of away wins given City’s straitened circumstances numbers-wise.
Rotherham’s late leveller against Norwich’s ten men now opens the door for Bournemouth to claim the second automatic spot tonight when they host Bolton in front of the Sky cameras.
But in the immediate aftermath of that draw, much of the focus fell on Grabban’s early exit – and the automatic three-match ban that will follow his straight red.
That will rule him out of the Fulham home clash and both of the play-off semi-finals.
Should the video replays confirm that he had, indeed, thrown a sneaky punch in the midst of a tangle with Craig Morgan, he would be well advised to stick a cushion down his trousers on Monday morning as Neil prepares to deal with matters ‘interally’.
The words ‘high’ and ‘jump’ sprang to mind as the 33-year-old Scot pondered the effect of that early dismissal.
The player’s own lack of protest as the red card was delivered suggests he knew he had crossed a line – even before his manager reaches for the videos.
“Obviously Lewis [Grabban] getting sent off gave us a mountain to climb,” said Neil, whose mood cannot have been helped by the fact that 26 minutes earlier he had preferred Grabban to his top-scorer Cameron Jerome for that lone strike role.
Out went that plan; as did Wes Hoolahan seven minutes later – the sacrificial tactical lamb to accommodate Hooper’s arrival.
“If Lewis is deemed to be guilty then obviously that’s something that we will deal with,” said the Canary chief.
“And I will be extremely disappointed if that is the case.”
If a punch is seen to be involved then the manager’s amusement will be even less.
“No – I won’t be happy. At all,” he confirmed. “It’ll be an internal matter for the club to deal with. I will be speaking to Lewis and dealing with it.”
It was an afternoon of so many twists and turns – be it at Vicarage Road where the promotion party was on hold for 20 minutes or at Craven Cottage where Middlesbrough now find themselves similarly in the hands of Bolton Wanderers on Monday night.
The Cherries might choke. It is a huge night in the history of the small South Coast club. They could yet still leave a door open for ‘Showdown Sunday’.
The shame was that Hooper’s wonder strike didn’t take the headlines it deserved. It was a goal worthy of winning any game. To have won this one would have been the stuff of Canary legend for the 2,300 supporters there to witness it.
“The fact that we were leading the game with five minutes to go, I would have fully expected us to see the game out,” Neil told BBC Radio Norfolk.
The manager still enjoys an unbeaten record away from home since his arrival at Carrow Road in January – a remarkable achievement notwithstanding events of late. He has also won away at both Watford and Bournemouth.
It is the home defeats to the Wigans of this world that will hurt ever more.
Yesterday they were just ten-odd minutes short of another heroic away success until Jordan Bowery’s header cut City’s celebrations short and set Watford’s in motion.
“In the main we were looking relatively comfortable,” he added. “I think Rotherham had one clear chance. So, considering we had ten men for the vast majority of the game, I thought defensively we did well.
“But for the last goal they had a fortunate break of the ball and they’ve managed to score. So extremely disappointing from our point of view – particularly given the fact that we managed to take the lead against all the odds.”
Odds that had suddenly been stacked against City once the red mist descended. Coming on the back of the Alexander Tettey own goal that gave Middlesbrough the edge the other Friday at Carrow Road and the footballing fates have not been overly kind on the former Hamilton Accies boss.
“It’s particularly difficult to win games with ten men – especially away from home,” said Neil.
“But I thought we overcame that really well. But to concede that type of goal right at the end was extremely disappointing.”