SO the Newcastle Knights are back on the outside, looking in.
Can they find within themselves whatever it takes to regain a top-eight position?
Optimistic fans will remember that their team bounced back from a similar dilemma earlier in the season. Hence Newcastle's players know from experience that they are capable, and understand what is required.
The flip side is they have almost reached the point of no-return, and back-to-back away games against Manly and Parramatta threaten to sound the death knell on their quest for a first finals appearance since 2013.
That Newcastle are in such a dire situation must be bewildering to supporters, and presumably to coach Nathan Brown and his players.
It doesn't seem that long ago the Knights were racking up wins, six of them on the trot, including consecutive triumphs against premiers Sydney Roosters (38-12) and the then competition leaders, South Sydney (20-12).
At the time, a top-eight berth seemed the bare-minimum expectation. The top four was apparently a realistic aspiration.
Now their final six games shape as a walk through a minefield. One or at most two defeats are all Newcastle can afford.
Friday night's 28-26 loss to Wests Tigers was a study in contrast.
Both teams arrived at McDonald Jones Stadium in desperate need of a win, having each endured three successive losses.
With a 21,029-strong crowd in their corner, the Knights produced a flying start, racing to a 12-0 advantage after only eight minutes.
Yet by half-time the Tigers had somehow usurped the lead, which they refused to surrender.
As Knights skipper Mitchell Pearce said in the lead-up to the match: "It's about how much you want it, and if you want it, you're going to get the results."
Using Pearce's rationale, the only conclusion that can be reached is the Tigers beat Newcastle through desire and their whatever-it-takes commitment.
That theory is reinforced if you consider the two respective squads, on paper, and ask yourself how many Tigers players would you swap for their Newcastle counterparts?
Friday's result also highlighted the alternative approaches of rival coaches Brown and Michael Maguire.
Brown showed faith in the troops hammered 48-10 by the Roosters a week earlier, and afterwards was clearly feeling that trust had not been repaid.
Maguire publicly lambasted his players after their 20-12 loss to Canberra, rearranged his starting line-up, and was rewarded with an improved performance.
Now Brown is set to wield the axe, yet his reluctance to change the squad beaten so heavily by the Roosters would suggest he believes those players are the best 17 he has available.
Just as they were earlier in the year, during a five-game losing streak, the Knights are in a state of flux.
Can they once again find a way to turn their season around? We'll soon see.