The quiet revolution is cranking up the volume. Brentford's 10 men celebrated with an unbridled joy which suggested they sense they are close to securing promotion to the Championship. Their crestfallen opponents trudged away with the stares of players preparing for the agony of the play-offs.
Leyton Orient's failure to maximise their numerical advantage, following the 49th-minute dismissal of the Brentford central defender James Tarkowski is likely to be costly. Yet the match itself was raucous reaffirmation of the under-rated clubs, unconsidered players and unfashionable principles which flourish outside the rose-scented bubble of the Premier League.
Brentford, nestling nicely behind League One leaders Wolves, are a community-focused club with a flourishing youth system, a modern recruitment model and a new stadium on the horizon. When fans chant the name of the owner something is afoot. Matthew Benham is that rarity, a fan with a plan rather than a speculator seeking return on a one-sided investment.
Continuity, in the form of manager Mark Warburton underpins a long-term strategy. He has lost only one of his 16 matches since shifting from his original role as technical director following the departure of Uwe Rösler. The transition has been smooth and effective.
"I've got a little less hair, but I'm loving it," he said, after a team with the time-honoured blend of youth and experience won by a Marcello Trotta goal two minutes into added time at the end of the first half.
The quality and improvisation involved in its creation – a surging run by Alan McCormack was complemented by a clever flick from Adam Forshaw – was matched by the clinical nature of its completion.
Warburton confronted the ghosts of last season's last-minute failure to go up on the final day by reproducing transcripts from internet forums which doubted Brentford's nerve. "That's not going to happen," he promised. "This is a better balanced group. I can't, in all honesty, go into that dressing room and say this is only three points. They're not stupid. It is a massive win."
A capacity crowd in east London enhanced Orient's moral claim to what would be their third promotion in 34 years. That would amplify their argument they deserve to share the Olympic Stadium with their neighbours, West Ham United.
Russell Slade is a master of managing meagre resources; the worry is that, in the event of a near miss, a club of Orient's means might find it difficult to keep players of the quality of Dean Cox, David Mooney and Moses Odubajo, a right winger who looks to have the energy and ambition to become an effective full-back at a higher level. It's too easy to be condescending. Brisbane Road may exist in a world without wi-fi, but it has timeless attractions and allegiances. The fundamental fatalism of the lower division fan was captured by an Orient supporter walking down the hill from Leyton tube station with his son.
"You know what's going to happen, don't you?" he said, with world-weary resignation. "We are going to finish third with a record points total and go out in the semi-finals of the play-offs."
The boy smiled, blissfully ignorant of the lifelong implications of the glorious obsession to which he has been introduced. The pace set at the top of League One has been relentless. In the words of the Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Kenny Jackett, whose team lead by a point after a 0-0 home draw against Shrewsbury, "any one of the top three would have been 10 points clear in any other season".
Players at this level don't conform to the footballer stereotypes. Romain Vincelot, victim of the foul which led to Tarkowski's predictable dismissal for a second bookable offence, does not own a TV. His pride and joy is a 1975 Corvette, which he calls his "Sunday car". Forshaw typifies the trickledown effect of the increasing elitism of the domestic game. He was well educated at Everton, but had no career path until he was given a central role in Brentford's fluid system, which shifts seamlessly from a midfield diamond to 4-3-3. At 21, he is a model free transfer.
Other young players of the quality of Chelsea loanee George Saville and Jake Bidwell responded to the nous of captain Tony Craig and the experience of Jonathan Douglas in an impressive rearguard action.
Brentford could even have scored a second five minutes into added time, when Alan Judge, puzzlingly surplus to Blackburn's requirements, hit the post with a fierce shot.
"They celebrated like they had won the FA Cup, but it's not finished yet, that's for sure," said Slade. Unfortunately, his eyes revealed more than he intended. The season stretches to infinity – and beyond.
Leyton Orient (4-4-2): Jakupovic; Omozusi, Cuthbert, Clarke, Sawyer (Batt, 69); Odubajo, Vincelot, James (Bartley, 88), Cox; Mooney, Lisbie (Dagnall, 74).
Brentford (4-1-4-1): Button; McCormack, Tarkowski, Craig, Bidwell; Douglas; Judge, Bidwell, Saville, Donaldson; Trotta (Dean, 51).
Referee Robert Madley.Reuse content