What a difference ten seconds makes. That's all it took for Leandro to turn Omiya Ardija's entire 2007 campaign on its head, when in the last minute of Saturday's match at Ajinomoto against FC Tokyo the Brazilian central defender embarked upon a run that took him virtually the length of the pitch, before clipping the ball over Tokyo keeper Hitoshi Shiota for a truly sensational winning goal.
The three points gleaned from that encounter combined with a 3-0 defeat at Kawasaki Frontale for relegation rivals Sanfrecce Hiroshima means that Ardija go into their last game of the season three points ahead and with a goal difference better by eleven. Put another way, in order to drop back into the dreaded play-off spot, Omiya will have to suffer a heavy defeat at the hands of Kawasaki while Hiroshima need to deliver an absolute thrashing to third-placed Gamba Osaka.
The former has to be acknowledged as a possibility - Frontale have been in potent form over the last couple of months, rattling in eighteen goals in just five games - and the latter less so, given Sanfrecce's current run of results that has seen them take just two points from 27. But while there are no guarantees in football, Leandro's moment of glory has given coach Satoru Sakuma a level of security in their J1 status of which they can only have dreamed as the FC Tokyo match seemed to be petering out to a 1-1 draw.
This much was clear from the reaction to the winner of Sakuma himself, covering his upturned face with his hands in a kind of ecstatic disbelief, while the travelling Ardija support celebrated wildly. After the final whistle there were, not surprisingly, tears shed both in the stands and in the dressing room.
The significance of that goal in the history of Omiya Ardija will no doubt be pondered at length over the close season, but before then fans will be hoping that Sakuma has brought his squad back down to earth for the Frontale game - a match of some significance not only because of its potential impact upon the club's league position. It is of course only the second fixture to be staged at the rebuilt Omiya Koen and after the disappointment of the 2-1 defeat to Oita Trinita in the curtain raiser three weeks ago, it is important to establish in the players' minds the notion that their new home can become a fortress - a place where they are difficult to beat.
Having to wait until 2008 for the first win at their magnificent new home would make this season conclude with something like unfinished business. But in some senses more sentimentally, the Frontale game also makes the end of the career of an Omiya great. A ceremony will be held to mark the retirement of former captain Seiichiro Okuno, bowing out after having arrived at the club in 1998, when they were still members of the JFL.
Some have given credit to Okuno for the timing of his announcement that he planned to quit and if it was indeed a motivational device it has been a successful one, with the Squirrels having gone on to pick up four vital points in the two subsequent matches. That Okuno can leave Omiya as a J1 player is a source of pride, while a victory over Kawasaki Frontale would round off a traumatic year in style.