On Saturday at Carlisle, for the first time in Chesterfield’s run of four straight defeats, you couldn’t see where a point was going to come from.
The Spireites were second best in a humdrum, scrappy game that ended 2-0 to the hosts and perhaps served up the biggest warning sign of the season.
Another few performances of this ilk and the trapdoor will have begun to creak open at the foot of League Two.
Despite Jack Lester’s assertion to the contrary in a terse post-match interview in the press box, there was a lot in the game to suggest a defeat was deserved.
The stats do not make for pretty reading.
Lester’s men, playing in an unfamiliar diamond formation, had eight shots all afternoon and seven of those came from outside the area.
They got the ball on target once, and that was disallowed.
They hit the woodwork early, but that was when Clint Hill miskicked a cross onto his own bar.
In stark contract, the Cumbrians mustered 17 efforts at goal according to data experts Wyscout and 14 of those were made from within the Spireites penalty area. Seven were on target and crucially, two found the net.
Aside from two, very short spells of dominance, Town were a side bereft of ideas and attacking endeavour.
Gone was the quick passing and purposeful, cohesive play we came to enjoy during that six game unbeaten run that now feels an age ago.
Instead, hopeful balls were floated in the direction of Chris O’Grady, or sometimes not even.
For Carlisle centre-halves Clint Hill and Mark Ellis much of it was meat and drink.
O’Grady won 18 of his 43 aerial battles, but even when he did get first contact there was little or no benefit for Chesterfield.
His strike partner Kristian Dennis had 14 touches in the game, didn’t win any of his seven aerial duels and got the better of only two of nine ground battles. It was a quiet afternoon for the club’s top goalscorer.
Behind the front two was Joe Rowley, who in the early stages looked bright, running into dangerous areas and causing a problem or two.
For the most part, there was no width and with – yet again this season – no wingers at the manager’s disposal perhaps that shouldn’t have been a surprise.
Josh Kay and Jak McCourt formed the flanks of the midfield diamond, with Louis Reed at the base.
Kay did manage to get into position to have a couple of digs at goal and came quite close.
McCourt looked a little lost.
That right hand side was a huge problem for Chesterfield because in Hallam Hope, Carlisle had a man on a mission.
Seventeen times he went on a one-verus-one dribble and 13 of them were successful.
Hope gave Town right-back Brad Barry a torrid time, coming out on top of 11 of their 16 individual duels.
The two that Barry won both took place in the Carlisle half.
Still only 23, Barry is yet to reach 80 Football League appearances and although it was obvious he was exposed and struggling, help did not arrive.
This season Hope has averaged 1.15 crosses per game, but on Saturday he was able to supply six.
Carlisle might only have scored twice, but their opener on 19 minutes proved enough in the end and it came from success on the left flank. Hope was involved.
Once they took the lead it seemed like the side in blue played well within themselves and didn’t have to do a great deal to foil the Spireites.
They sat back and waited for questions to be asked, but none were forthcoming.
The introduction of Andy Kellett and Jerome Binnom-Williams seemed to spark a mini revival for Town in the second half and when a corner was cleared as far as Reed, his volley found the net and looked to have turned the game on its head.
Alas, a confab between the referee and his assistant brought a delayed hoisting of a flag, presumably for the interference of Alex Whitmore in an offside position, and the goal was chalked off.
Lester suggested this may have been an incorrect decision after the game, and the replays do little to clear the matter up, Whitmore certainly in close proximity to keeper Jack Bonham and potentially denying him the chance to dive properly to stop the shot.
Whether or not the officials got that one right, they may well have got another big decision wrong, ex Spireite Gary Liddle receiving only a first half yellow for a late, reckless tackle on Reed late in the first half.
It was something Lester was keen to highlight at full-time and it may well have changed the course of the afternoon.
Regardless, Carlisle responded superbly to Town’s little resurgence, perhaps realising the win might be slipping from their grasp, turning the screw and finding a second goal.
They, unlike Chesterfield, did enough to win the game and the visitors’ failure to defend a corner meant that John O’Sullivan could beat Aaron Ramsdale to complete the scoring.
The 237 away fans in attendance on Saturday made their feelings clear on both the performance and the club’s board.
It’s going to take a much improved performance to quell songs of protest at the Proact next weekend.
And only a positive result will prevent the fat lady from beginning her warm up.
Thirteen games now remain for Lester to conjure up an escape from the drop zone.
Five points separate his side from safety and Morecambe, directly above them, have a game in hand.
Call it a crisis or an opportunity for great heroics, either way the time to sort it out is upon us.