The Football League this afternoon managed to produce the kind of ugly fudge that only the Football Association, the RFU, the LTA and every other UK sporting body are capable of as it decided that Southampton's financial woes demanded further 'forensic' examination before any decision could be reached as to whether or not a ten-point penalty was in order.
Use their 'discretion' and hand Saints the approved penalty for falling into administration in the midst of a season and it would all-but condemn the South Coast side to League One next year.
And with Charlton having long looked doomed, so it would leave Norwich et al to scrap it out over just one, last relegation place.
But with Southampton sticking to their defence that it was the parent company – Southampton Leisure Holdings Plc – and not the football club that had fallen into administration, so the Football League delayed any decision and, no doubt, gave both the lawyers and the accountants an early Easter present as both sides settled in for a long haul.
The short statement issued by the League late this afternoon read: “The Football League Board today considered the position of Southampton Football Club.
“The League Board has instructed its legal advisors to commission an independent forensic accountancy report in order to clarify the legal and financial position of the club, as a matter of urgency.
“The Board will reconvene once that report is available.”
Saints also claim to have precedent on their side in the shape of Derby County's holding company which went into receivership in 2003 – and the club were not penalised with sporting sanctions.
The St Mary's club – understood to be some ?30 million in debt and owing up to ?24 million of that to Norwich Union – has already indicated that they will appeal any ruling which sees Southampton FC penalised.
Mark Fry, the Joint Administrator to Southampton Leisure Holdings plc, said: “Subject to the scope of the report we welcome the Football League's initiative in commissioning an independent report ahead of any decision being made on the possibility of a ten-point deduction.
“In our view this indicates that the situation will be reviewed thoroughly and independently and we are confident of a successful outcome because in our view no rules have been breached.”
It is an opinion that at least half a dozen Championship clubs stuck in the mire at the foot of the table would beg to differ with.
Likewise those of Luton and Bournemouth's ilk who have already been through the ten-point and more mill.
Tonight and Norwich City were refusing to comment on today's events – leaving everyone one to speculate as to where next for all concerned.
A 'forensic' inquiry into the exact relationship between Southampton Leisure Holdings Plc and the football club itself may well be simply an act of legal prudence on the Football League's behalf – that by leaving no stone unturned in their desire to decide whether or not the financial sins of the 'parent' should come to haunt the football club itself, the Football League Board may simply be protecting itself from future legal redress.
That they can, therefore, insist that their judgement was made on sound and thorough investigation as opposed to one, hasty decision made one April afternoon.
That said, however, and the clock is clearly ticking on this one with the end of the season little more than four weeks away, the uncertainty over Southampton's fate this season is bound to cast a long shadow over proceedings.
It could also prompt a messy counter-claim if Southampton were to escape the drop this season only to be found 'guilty' in the summer and start next season ten points adrift at the foot of the Championship.
For whoever took their place in the bottom three, there would clearly be the prospect of a legal fight with both the Saints and the Football League Board if they were felt to have wriggled off the hook at someone else's expense – and that the whole, tortuous Football League process itself were likewise partly to blame.
It is, in short, a whole can of worms waiting to be unleashed. And with Saints lawyers on stand-by tonight to launch an appeal, the Football League were probably in a no-win situation – they were to be damned if they did, and damned if they didn't.
Either way, the onus remains firmly on the Canaries to make sure that events stay firmly in their own hands; that they do not have to rely on the courts to save them from League One.