So, the countdown has come to the final two games. Time may be running out for some of the participants in the J1 relegation battle, but for others the situation is exactly as precariously balanced as it has been for the last few weeks - the distance between success and failure being, at this stage in the season, very short indeed.
The failure of Ventforet Kofu to beat Omiya Ardija on Sunday had ramifications for both teams - Kofu, absolutely desperate to win the match, are four points from safety and now look in grave danger of occupying the second relegation spot. For Omiya, the single point pricelessly and fortuitously gained enabled them to stay just in front of a Sanfrecce Hiroshima side who couldn't hold on to their lead at home to Vissel Kobe.
All three teams appear devoid of confidence, but nevertheless it is Ardija who have made some progress as they fight to avoid the drop. Four wins in seven games during September and October have put Satoru Sakuma's team in a position where they know that if in the final two fixtures of the season they achieve the same or better results than Sanfrecce, they will in all probability guarantee J1 survival for 2008.
And if there is one side that would appear to hold the key to deciding who wins and who loses the race to avoid the drop, it is of course... FC Tokyo. And Kawasaki Frontale. That's two teams. But curiously, the J-League schedule has determined that while Tokyo host Ardija this Saturday and then travel to Kofu on the last day of the season, Frontale play Hiroshima in Kanagawa before meeting the Squirrels at Omiya Koen in ten days' time.
Tokyo's recent form has been wildly unpredictable, a 7-0 demolition at home by - of all teams - Kawasaki followed two games later by a draw with title chasing Gamba Osaka. Luckily for Omiya, they will be missing through suspension two of their most important players, wide man Yasuyuki Konno and central defensive lynchpin Teruyuki Moniwa.
Ardija, on the other hand, will surely welcome back Leandro to the heart of the back four, while Takuro Nishimura faces two more matches on the sidelines as a result of his dismissal in the latter stages of the game at Ventforet. Most Squirrels fans are doubtless unsympathetic to the plight of Nishimura, who in being red-carded not once but twice in recent weeks cost his team a point at Albirex Niigata and almost did the same on Sunday.
Such unreliability cannot be sanctioned with so much at stake and fortunately loan signing Yusuke Murayama appears to be a more than able replacement. Indeed, perhaps the only question mark facing Sakuma in terms of team selection comes as the result of the injury - reported to be a cut to the face of some sort - to striker Denis Marques.
Against Kofu, a makeshift 4-5-1 formation led unexpectedly by the inexperienced Pedro Junior provided almost no attacking threat and it is imperative that, while the return of Leandro will bring stability to the back four, Ardija are able to exploit the absence of Moniwa and attack keeper Hitoshi Shiota. And all the time, the Squirrel Nation will be keeping a close eye on events in Kawasaki.