If playing in the Champions League next season is key to David Moyes remaining at Everton, then the ending of the Premier League's third most enduring partnership may be a step closer this morning.
Moyes has cast a shadow of uncertainty over Goodison Park by announcing he will delay until the end of the season a decision over whether he will seek to renew his contract, making it clear he wants to see where Everton finish in the table before he commits himself to extending a stay at the club that will enter its 12th year next month.
Provided they see off Oldham of League One at the second attempt in tomorrow's fifth-round FA Cup replay, Everton could yet provide Moyes belatedly with a tangible reward for years of overachievement. Yet there is a suspicion that even a first piece of silverware under the Moyes management could be no more than a parting gift should a team he regards as the best he has assembled fail to give him his second top-four finish. Moreover, after watching his side succumb to a late Norwich fightback, stretching Everton's lean run to one win in six Premier League matches, Moyes admitted his confidence is wearing thin.
"We have to hang in there but I don't know if there is still time [to get into the top four]," he said. "There are a lot of games to go but I think it is going to be tough for us." The frustration for Moyes, as ever, is the limit placed upon him by the small size of his squad. "We don't use it as an excuse but it may be a reason," he said.
The difference, in the end, was the attacking players Chris Hughton was able to bring on, especially Kei Kamara, whose fine headed equaliser was the first Premier League goal scored by a player from Sierra Leone. The humbly appreciative Kamara, on loan from the MLS club Kansas City, described it as "a great, great moment in my life... an important goal that really helped the team... a goal that I am going to carry with me for ever".