Carrow Road may have been swirled in snow for much of this afternoon's contest, but it was equally wreathed in the warmest of feel-good glows as Jamie Cureton's first-ever City hat-trick condemned Colchester United to a 5-1 defeat and put his beloved Canaries within sight of the finishing line.
Two goals to the good and cruising, Kevin Lisbie nipped onto the end of a weak Jason Shackell back-header to leave the game delicately poised at 2-1 at the break.
After the interval, however, and the Canaries stepped on the gas as Cureton had the time of his life against his old employers.
He could – if not should – have finished the game with five as he took his haul to the season to 14.
A fabulous, 35-yard lob from an ageless Dion Dublin fell back off the bar only for Cureton to blaze over from some 15 yards out.
Having latched onto a Darren Huckerby pull-back for his first before the break, the second came from a calmly-taken spot-kick after Phil Ifil had tripped Matty Pattison deep in the Us box.
The longed-for third came two minutes from the end when Dublin laid the ball back at his feet and a crisp, angled drive flew inside Dean Gerken's left-hand post.
In between Johnnie Jackson's disastrous back-pass left Cureton one-on-one again with Gerken only for the keeper's long legs to deny the 32-year-old.
Before the end and Dublin would lift a delicious 18-yard lob over a bemused Gerken to all but send the Essex side crashing into League One.
As for the Canaries, the home game against Burnley in a fortnight's time should – on this performance – be the moment that the finishing line finally comes into sight, but today the game belonged to Cureton.
Match-ball tucked up his shirt, a pregnant City favourite celebrated in front of the Barclay at the final whistle – a big job done.
There were all manner of big decisions that faced City boss Glenn Roeder ahead of this afternoon's crucial contest – not least what exactly to do with 'Party' Pattison on the back of a week that the 21-year-old would clearly wish to forget.
Having made the big point about keeping the player 'in the family', the City boss went one stage further and kept him in the team for the U's clash. Big decision – because, with Darel Russell back in the fold, that ensured that Huckerby had to go wide right; Lee Croft to the bench.
On which there would be no keeper as Maceo Rigters made his first appearance for his new, part-time employers.
And until Shackell left a back header horribly short of David Marshall four minutes before the break, Roeder's thinking for such a huge game was coming up trumps.
For while Dean Hammond's free-kick might have opened up the first shooting opportunity of the contest, as Clive Platt nodded down for Jackson to drive over, the Canaries were swiftly into a relaxed stride and, indeed, took the lead with just six minutes gone.
If ever there was a goal that the doctor might have ordered, Otsemobor's was it.
It was all of his own doing as the City right-back drove forward and through at least at least two defenders before rifling into the roof of the net beyond Gerken. It was his first goal for the Canaries since last summer's free switch from Crewe – his delight, and the supporters' relief, were very evident as the celebrations started.
The second goal was always going to be the key. Or at least, in theory.
For having gone into the game with just Platt up front the U's had to come out and play now – all of which suited City just fine.
Pattison, in particular, was looking sharp and inventive going forward and a wonderful, one-touch routine with the over-lapping Ryan Bertrand almost saw Russell poke the second home at the near post.
Moments later and Huckerby went on the first of his runs as Dublin swept an inviting ball from one side of the pitch to the other.
With Cureton screaming for the ball on the penalty spot, the City winger just lost his touch and his footing at the last moment as Gerken scrambled about at his feet. Cureton's call – for now – went unanswered.
On 36 minutes, however, and the pair teamed up to huge effect.
Huckerby hit the classic button; drove to the by-line and as Cureton pulled off at the near-post, so Huckerby's perfect pull-back allowed the one-time U's favourite to smash a fierce volley home for his 12th goal of the season.
His reaction down in front of his beloved Snake Pit spoke volumes.
This being City, Shackell's back header gave Lisbie first the chance to pull one back and Roeder, you presume, the chance to have one or two words at the break.
With Alex Pearce on for Gary Doherty at the interval, signs of a decent club looking after its own came with Pattison's exit near the hour-mark.
Granted a warm round of applause by the City faithful, his exit included big hugs from his team-mates after a torrid week in the tabloid glare.
The biggest hug, however, awaited on the touchline from City boss Roeder. You suspect that kid will run through brick walls for the manager now. That's clever man management and capped an excellent day at the office for all concerned.
Certainly it will be difficult to wipe the smile off Cureton's face for weeks to come.
Before the end and Roeder handed Rigters his first 12 minutes in a Canary shirt. He looked game enough without ever really seeing the whites of Gerkens' eyes. That job belonged to Cureton who gave Carrow Road their first hat-trick since Dean Ashton's triple against Southampton en route to West Ham in December, 2005.
Given the context of today's game, there won't be too many more important hat-tricks scored by someone in a Norwich shirt. And given the nature of today's modern player, there won't be too many players for whom it means so much as the one-time Canary kid let go for being daft as a brush.
Norwich City (4-4-2): Marshall; Otsemobor, Bertrand, Doherty (Pearce, 45 mins), Shackell; Huckerby (Rigters, 78 mins), Fotheringham, Russell, Pattison (Croft, 57 mins); Dublin, Cureton. Subs (not used): Evans, Camara.
Colchester United (4-5-1): Gerken; Ifil, Virgo, Balogh, White; Elito (Vernon, 45 mins) Izzet, White, Hammond, Jackson, Lisbie (Wordsworth, 70 mins); Platt. Subs (not used): Bankole, Baldwin, Guy.
Attendance: 25, 215.
Man of the Match: Jamie Cureton.
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