Reading - Is the great escape still on?
Reading's survival hopes looked bleak at Christmas. In fact there was more chance of Razor Ruddock's turkey seeing Boxing Day than there was of Brian McDermott being a Premier League manager come August. The Royals had just 10 points to their name, had won only once and a superior goal difference over QPR was the only thing keeping them off the bottom.
However, since Santa visited the good children around the world, the Royals have done their hopes of staying in the top flight the power of good.
Just before the turn of the year they defeated their old foes West Ham United and have since established themselves as comeback kings, sensationally clawing their way back from two down to beat West Brom and recording their first ever league win over Newcastle at St James' Park.
But is the great escape still on?
Reading moved out of the drop zone following that historic performance in the North East, only for Aston villa to swap places with them again later on following their point at the Baggies. They are now just one point from safety and the clouds of doom at the Madejski have been replaced by rays of hope.
Brian McDermott's men have a habit of finding form when we flip over our new calendars. Just last year they turned on the gas and romped home to clinch the Championship title, losing just two league games in the process. 2013 has started in a similar fashion, but the Premier League is a different beast to the Championship. Reading have lost just once this calendar year. Unfortunately they face a real test in the coming weeks with games against Chelsea and Sunderland, both at home, coming up.
But Reading have a huge advantage over their relegation rivals, as they are still to play fellow strugglers Aston Villa, Southampton, Wigan and QPR. And best of all they all have to come to the Madejski. That could potentially be 12 massive points and their home form will be the key in whether they stay up or not.
Unfortunately, as with every team in the Premier League, Reading face a number of tough away days. They play Stoke at the Britannia, which is never an easy place to go, Everton at Goodison Park, which has been something of a fortress this season, Manchester United at Old Trafford and Arsenal at the Emirates all before the end of March. Anything they can pick up from those games will be viewed as an absolute bonus.
Going into the season's finale, Reading host Southampton and Liverpool, before taking on Norwich at Carrow Road - which is winnable - entertaining QPR, travelling to Fulham, and visiting the home of the reigning champions Manchester City before ending the season at Upton Park.
Ideally the Royals need 21 points more or less to guarantee survival. That's seven wins. Can they achieve that? Going on their form this season it's unlikely. But if the past few games have been anything to go by maybe, just maybe, their luck has started to turn.
If they can beat those in and around them that would give them a huge boost, but where would the other three wins come from? They could well beat Liverpool. Brendan Rodgers's men have been frustratingly inconsistent this season. You just never know which team is going to turn up. Norwich City is another potential victory while Fulham are hard to beat at Craven Cottage, but they may be thinking about the beaches by the time this game comes around. And if they are still in the survival race come the final day of the season every Reading fan would fancy their chances against West Ham.
But to ensure survival Reading must tighten up defensively. Eight times this season they have conceded three or more goals in the league. That simply cannot be allowed to persist. They also need more players to stand up where it counts in front of goal. Adam Le Fondre scored his seventh and eighth of the season against Newcastle, but they need more from the likes of Pogrebynak, Kebe, Kani and co.
Reading remain one of the bookies' favourites for the drop, but with Aston Villa faltering and Newcastle United sinking like a stone, there's no reason why fans of the Royals cannot start dreaming of a happy ending.
Calling all Reading fans: Do you believe the Royals can pull off the great escape? Where do you think the points will come from? What does Brian McDermott have to do in order to guarantee survival? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.