If – and it remains a huge 'if' notwithstanding yesterday's crucial win over Watford – if Norwich were to scramble clear of the drop zone over the course of the next three games, City skipper Gary Doherty knows who he would thank.
The man who once again stands next to him in the heart of that Canary defence – Jason Shackell.
He might also need to thank City boss Bryan Gunn for having the nous to ask Shackell what he was up to when the pair bumped into eachother in a Molineux corridor. But either way, Doherty clearly feels that the prodigal's return has gone a long, long way to putting the Canaries within sight of a Championship future.
“He's been terrific since he's come back,” said Doherty, as the on-loan Wolves defender delivered another commanding performance – in both boxes.
City had him to thank for one, superb first-half interception as Tommy Smith's run and cross theatened to end in Canary disaster; in the opposing box and Shackell had already seen one, far post header cleared off the line before his thumping header onto the bar teed up his defensive pal for that crucial second goal and three points Norwich needed to haul themselves back out of the drop zone.
“He's been a real key signing for us and I think that he's probably turned our season – he's definitely turned our defensive record round because it was pretty appalling until he turned up.
“And then he had a few chances himself – I think he had one cleared off the line and hit the crossbar, so he's looking a threat at the other end as well.”
Put that lot together and Doherty was able to bask in the warm feeling of a 2-0 win carved out in front of City's biggest crowd of the season. Once again, hope springs from every Canary heart. Or most.
“It's massive,” said the City skipper, whose 83rd minute header spared 25,000 of the City faithful the agonies of a last-gasp Hornets leveller.
“Obviously with the defeat Saturday – although the performance wasn't too bad – there was a lot of pressure; we knew it was a must-win; we couldn't get a draw or nothing like that so we're obviously delighted with the three points.
“And 2-0 is a good bit of goal difference as well for us.”
Given that events are now likely to go right to the wire, goal difference could make all the difference. Which is why City's six-goal 'cushion' ahead of Barnsley and ten-goal head-start on Nottingham Forest could prove so crucial.
Doherty has clearly been doing his sums already.
“Our goal difference is miles better than Forest, but Barnsley were creeping up on us but I think we now go six better than them and it could well boil down to that.
“Obviously, you don't want it to boil down to that, but it's nice to have it in your favour.”
In fairness to City, they weren't quite as jittery and nerve-ridden as the occasion might have demanded. From the very off, they put their best foot forward. And bar Will Hoskins' stunning drive against the bar, rarely looked in too much danger as the 'spine' of the team delivered big, strong and utterly committed performances.
From Doherty-Shackell at the back, through to Sammy Clingan and the irrepressible Alan Lee at the point of the Norwich attack, Gunn got the performance he was looking for – when it mattered, to boot. Now he just needs another three more.
“I thought we played some good stuff at times, as well,” said Doherty, leading by example with that captain's armband on.
“We had a lot of chances; we hit the woodwork a few times. Fair enough, they had one great strike in the first-half but apart from that I thought we were comfortable, to be honest.”
It was, he admitted, a sweet, sweet moment to bag that all-important second strike.
“It was lovely,” he said. “I watched Shacks' header onto the bar and I thought: 'I've just got to try and power it in.
“So, obviously, I'm delighted as I haven't scored for a little while. So, I'm over the moon at that.”
It was one of those where the player had all too much time to think about it. But, in fairness, to the City skipper, those early years at Luton and Spurs as a striker, served him well.
“The goal was just at my mercy, but I thought I can't just tap it with my head because they might have got back, so I thought: 'Right, I'm just going to try and power it as hard as I can… and just hope it flies into the net. And luckily enough it did. And, as I say, it's a great three points for us.”
Come Ipswich tis Sunday and Reading the Monday after, the Canaries have the 'advantage' of playing after their relegation rivals.
That can, of course, work both ways – if the likes of a Forest or a Barnsley have dropped points, then incentive is clear. If, however, they have picked up maximum points, then the onus on Norwich to follow suit is even greater.
“If they lose – yes, it's a great position to be in,” he said.
“But obviously if they get decent results it's going to pile a lot of pressure on us – and Ipswich will be looking for a bit of revenge after we turned them over here.
“And we're all looking forward to it – if we can go there and get a result, it would be massive for us.”
The fact that they've done a big job against Watford helps. Big time.
“We've got a week of happiness now going into that game,” he said. “We can watch Saturday and see how the other teams get on. But if they win their games it's going to heap a lot of pressure on us come Sunday.”