City goal hero Darel Russell slammed goal No4 for the season in his all-time top three as the Canaries started to gaze ever more upwards after this weekend's last-gasp 1-0 win over Preston North End.
Despite the home side piling on the pressure in the game's last 20 minutes, the clock appeared to be ticking down to a fifth successive home draw before Russell latched on to Dion Dublin's 89th minute flick-on.
Thereafter, a “striker's instinct” took over as he swivelled away on the edge of the Lilywhites' box and smashed a low, left-foot half volley inside the keeper's right-hand upright.
It was a fabulous strike – alas, not wholly in keeping with the overall quality of the preceeding hour-and-a-half, but still more than enough to keep the punters satisfied as the Norfolk side finish the weekend close to the play-off zone than the drop zone. That in itself is something of a first this season.
“It was a good team battle today,” said Russell, as ever never far from the action in the heart of that Canary midfield.
“And we're just glad to get the three points. It must be disheartening for Preston to concede a goal so late on in the game and they've probably defended pretty well, considering.”
When the chance finally came, it appears that instinct took over; that the force was with him as the one-time City youth product chested the ball down, twisted off to his right and let fly with his left boot from some 20-yards distant.
“I've just said to the boys I've no idea what possessed me to chest it down and hit. Because usually you think about that and you have that planned. And Jamie (Cureton) has just said to me that it's a striker's instinct. It's just something that comes naturally; you feel that it's the right time to hit the ball.”
Boy was it, as the luckless Andy Lonergan could do little more than flick a despairing right glove at the ball as it whipped away and beyond him.
“Luckily for me it came off the boot nicely and nestled in the back of the net,” he said, as the 12th goal of his two-spell Canary career brought the crowd to its feet in the game's dying seconds and swiftly worked its way into his top three.
“It is probably up in the top three – I'll have to look through the old archives and see which one I prefer, but, yes, it was a very nice goal.”
Coming on the back of Tuesday night's 1-0 win at Southampton and the Canaries are nicking big, big results right now. The significance of that is not lost on Russell – picking up such wins when you are not at the very top of your game bodes very well for the spring to come.
“A lot of people say that the sign of a good team is when you're not playing the greatest and you're still getting the result; it just shows that there's a bit of belief there. There's a habit been formed there – that we're hard to beat. And there's every chance that at any point we can win games.”
It is all a far, far cry from life earlier this season; now the top half of the table can sense Norwich timing their run to possible perfection. Nine times out of ten, someone steps in at the last moment to nick that sixth and final play-off spot.
City, of course, did it themselves in 2002. The history of the play-offs is littered with similar examples; of teams getting a certain wind in their sails and storming through to unexpected success.
“I'm quite sure now that teams are going to be looking over their shoulder and taking note of Norwich City,” said Russell. “Because I think in the early part of the season people were loving coming to play us or us playing them because they thought it was three points and an easy win.
“But now we're really hard to beat and it's just great to be in this position at this minute in time. Hopefully, we can carry on this unbeaten run and try and emulate teams like Crystal Palace and what they've done this season.”
Though the Eagles have slipped up of late with that 1-0 defeat at Leicester City and this weekend's 1-1 home draw with a managerless Southampton, they have still blasted their way firmly into the play-off reckoning as they sit there in seventh with the wily old Neil Warnock at the helm.
They will be there at the end, as West Bromwich Albion, AN Other and a Wembley play-off winner prepare for life in the Premiership next season.
“There's a feeling there now that, even when we don't play well, we're not going to get beaten,” said Russell, a feeling that the 2004 title team had in abundance.
“Even if we don't play well, we'll batten down the hatches and we're not going to concede today,” he explained. “It's that kind of strength in depth that we've got.”
That and an excellent keeper in David Marshall, whose growing stature may prove to be another big reason why City are conceding so few goals of late. He pulled out another crucial save at the death to deny Brett Ormerod as Norwich continued on their merry way. One or two thoughts were, inevitably, turning northwards.
“Obviously you've got an eye up the table – and it's probably always better to look forward than look who's chasing you behind. And when you keep looking behind, you probably end up tripping up. That's where we want to be – so it's always better for us to be aiming in a direction that we want to go.”
Until Russell's super-strike it was never the easiest game on the eye, with the 27-year-old suggesting that conditions underfoot didn't help the search for sweet, flowing football.
“Our pitch is pretty bobbly in there and there's a lack of grass in there; on the outside it's not too bad, but in the middle there it's difficult to get the ball down and play. So we're finding it a little bit difficult, but we plugged away. And I think we just lacked a little bit of quality in our final ball.
“So it's just really great to get the three points,” he added, a feeling he shared with about 24,000 others at Carrow Road this weekend.