Hope – such as it ever was – lasted little more than 60 seconds at The Valley this afternoon.
Just long enough to give the long-suffering Canary supporters one, brief moment of joy. Just long enough for Charlton to realise that it was help-yourself time in the Norwich box; that the opposition had ridden into the Valley of Death minus a spine. Or a heart.
For the first 45 minutes of their final, do-or-die contest of the season, they stank.
Four years ago and Fulham found the Norfolk side in an equally shambolic state on a day when Premiership survival lay on the line. This afternoon and Bryan Gunn's outfit appeared intent on following a similar path as three Charlton goals in the space of 20-odd, first-half minutes condemned Norwich to their League One fate and made Gary Sawyer's 12th minute opener at Home Park wholly irrelevant.
For within a minute a wretched David Marshall clearance had wholly wrong-footed the visitors; Lloyd Sam found space behind stand-in left-back Jason Shackell and his hanging cross was a gift for Addicks Player of the Season Nicky Bailey as he smashed the last nail into Norwich's Championship coffin with a free, far post header.
And, odd goal flurry apart, it went downhill from there; a topsy-turvy, error-strewn contest finally ending 4-2. A ticket to Exeter awaiting both winner and loser as Norwich followed Charlton into the depths below courtesy of their own, glorious ineptitude and Barnsley's 2-1 win at Plymouth.
Afterwards and a devastated Bryan Gunn was picking his words very carefully.
It was very clear where his sympathies lay after his 22-year association with both the Norfolk club and its people. And it wasn't with those that, in many eyes, had dishonoured that famous Canary jersey.
“The club and the supporters have been let down today,” said the City chief. “To go out onto the pitch and capitulate after what? 30 minutes? It's not good enough.
“It's a gut-wrenching experience. I had a similar experience in '94-95 when I was relegated as a player and I remember going onto Elland Road with a broken leg – and today was no different.”
It was, he said, an embarrassment to have a relegation on your cv. The fact that the supporters were left to chant 'You're not fit to wear the shirt…' before the end was, said Gunn, entirely reasonable. They had a point.
“They've got every right to say that – they're 3-0 down. But our fans will be there for us next season; we've just got to face up to the prosepct of League One football and find out who wants to be at the football club and who wants to play in front of 25,000 fans next season.”
In the meantime, he suggested they did their best to hide themselves away over the summer after a day of Fulham-esque shame.
“When you're sitting in the sun over the summer, I think a lot of them should have the sun-glasses on; the baseball caps on – because it is an embarrassment to be relegated. Certainly to finish off with a performance like that today.
“And those fans out there don't deserve the performance that they got,” he said. “And, hopefully, we won't see too many of those again in the future.”
As for the reasons why, the answer was very simple. “Lack of character – and a belief that they could do it. I've been telling them all week that there were thousands of Norwich City fans that still believed they could do it – and to go out onto the pitch and show that.
“I don't want to criticise the players too much, but they've played their part in Norwich City being relegated.”
The killer second goal again had soft written all over it as Marshall did no more than push Therry Rancon's low shot to the feet of Deon Burton who had the simplest of stabs home; the third wasn't much better as Jonjo Shelvey found all the time and space he needed on that ever-weak right side to give Burton his second and send a clutch of Canary supporters heading for the exits with just 31 minutes gone.
Alan Lee gave those that remained something to ironically cheer when he pulled one back in first-half injury time with a simple header after Jon Otsemobor had headed Simon Lappin's deep corner back across the face of goal.
By then Gunn had ripped up his first game plan and thrown Cody McDonald in as a third striker as Adrian Leijer disappeared five minutes before the interval.
Whatever the plans were for the second period – and once Barnsley had grabbed their second, they mattered little – they lasted little more than six minutes before Burton rounded off the easiest hat-trick of his professional career when Sam wholly undid Lappin for strength and pace down the Addicks right and squeezed a low cross through a near-empty City six-yard box where the Charlton striker slid in ahead of Otsemobor to stab No4 home.
McDonald was a rare saving grace; he may yet offer one silver lining to the dark clouds of League One.
Whether Sammy Clingan makes it there is another matter; he joined 'OG' as City's second highest goal-scorer this season with a sweet, curling free-kick inside the keeper's right upright on the hour-mark.
Before the end, Shelvey would clip the bar; City would huff and puff and throw both Jason Shackell and Gary Doherty into a five-man forward line. To little real effect; Elliot would palm a decent Lee header wide on 84 minutes.
But as brighter and as braver as that second 45 minutes had been, the damage had long been done. Norwich never showed for the first-half. And in a game of such magnitude to not make even half a fight of it was criminal.
Not least for the 3,300 travelling Canary fans who, as ever, did their jerseys proud.