Three points clear at the top of the Championship in the midst of the worst injury crisis most City fans can recall.
In terms of Daniel Farke’s achievements since his arrival here in May 2017, I’d argue this particular one tops the lot.
To have prepared, cajoled, nurtured and steered this stricken group through the choppiest, most hostile of waters imaginable and yet still see them lead the pack has been an outstanding effort.
The common consensus seems to be that having reached the summit in these most trying of circumstances, the arrival of reinforcements in the next few weeks should see us push on; maybe put some clean water between ourselves and some of the pretenders, but while that theory works on paper, this is the Championship.
Farke and his team know the challenges come thick and fast in what must be the most brutal league in world football, and while today and tomorrow is all about getting eleven suitably refreshed bodies (and minds) onto the pitch, further down the track it will be about rediscovering those winning permutations from their embarrassment of riches.
The task, while different, will be no less challenging than the one they are managing right now. The goal remains the same.
Understandably, the sheer beauty of City’s last promotion campaign seems a distant memory at the moment, but last night there was something equally satisfying in the way they dug in when the chips were down and again ground out three points when it looked impossible.
Forest were limited in the first half, even if they did create the most clear-cut chances, but played well after the break and asked questions aplenty.
Chris Hughton’s men looked lively and dangerous compared to a leggy City team that’s been pretty much constant over the last few games through necessity, and there were few complaints when Anthony Knockaert’s cross drifted painfully inside Michael McGovern’s far post for the leveller.
Despite City controlling the first half and having found that pleasing passing rhythm that often accompanies the presence of Mario Vrancic, clear-cut chances were scarce, and only when the tempo was upped did we look likely to break the Hughton code.
In the end it was fitting that, after intelligently releasing Marco Stiepermann in the inside channel, Jacob Sorensen would round off another solid half in an unfamiliar position with a crisp finish.
While the young Dane will never be a bona fide left-back, the job he has done for his coach in trying circumstances has been outstanding, and all while showing maturity and poise in a frantic type of football that’s alien to him.
Whether he gets the chance to show us these same skills in his preferred position remains to be seen – it’s a crowded field in the centre of that City midfield – but he’s certainly earned a shot.
The positive spin is that without a left-back crisis his game time would have ranged from limited to zero. He’s played himself into the forefront of Farke’s thoughts.
The Forest equaliser was no great shock given the way the second-half had evolved but it was the double change from Farke in the four minutes between Knockaert’s goal and Emi Buendia’s winner that proved decisive.
The fresh legs of Alex Tettey and Todd Cantwell worked to greater effect than even Farke could have imagined; the latter in particular showing a hunger borne of a few frustrating weeks watching from the sidelines.
The change gave City an extra ten per cent, enough to wrestle the initiative back for few minutes; enough time for Emi Buendia to do Emi Buendia things, even if it did take a fortuitous deflection off the head of Joe Worrall to seal the deal.
What followed was not pretty but if grit, endeavour and fearlessness are among the qualities needed to win promotion, then this group has more than a chance.
City teams of yesteryear would have buckled under the Forest onslaught, but with Grant Hanley leading by example at the heart of a defence that refused to be bowed, three of the most hard-earned points of the season were snaffled away from under Hughton’s nose.
The post-match reporting told of City being lucky and of Forest being deserving of far more than they achieved – a view echoed by the Sky red button commentator – but these narrow, eleventh-hour wins don’t happen by chance.
From being a group that a few months ago had forgotten how to win, they now refuse to be beaten. One defeat in ten games, however fortuitous some make us out to be, just doesn’t happen through good luck alone.
We’re a good side, albeit one that’s being tested to its limit, and we lead a division despite being shorn of the equivalent of a whole team. We have no recognised left-backs, we played two games without a recognised striker and still we kept our heads above water and some.
There’s plenty to be proud of right now.
On the Ball City