The Championship is a notoriously difficult division to get out of, with the competitive nature of life just one rung down from the Premier League Promised Land ensuring that little quarter is given on a level playing field.
This season has taken the scramble for top-flight football to another level as the leading pack having bunched tightly together.
It has been like this for some months now, with it only recently that a select group of hopefuls has emerged.
With just two games remaining in the 2014/15 campaign, eight must now go into six, while four must be squeezed into two as the automatic promotion spots are decided.
Only three points separate table-topping Watford from Norwich City in fourth, with Bournemouth and Middlesbrough the meat in their sandwich. Behind them, Derby County in fifth are just four points clear of eighth-placed Wolverhampton Wanderers, with Ipswich Town and Brentford still very much in the mix.
Who, then, is going up, and who provides the best value for money in the betting markets as we approach the finishing post of the regular season and prepare to enter the lottery of the play-offs?
Written off by many just a few weeks back, Derby County look to be the side to back for those seeking value in a tricky market.
Steve McClaren’s men saw their stock fall in March as they collected just two points from 15 on offer during the calendar month. That sticky patch formed part of a greater dip in form that produced no win in seven between February 24 and April 6.
There were mitigating circumstances, though, with the injury gods conspiring against the men from the iPro Stadium. Goals at any level are a vital commodity, and the Rams saw them dry up at an alarming rate as they managed just four during their winless run.
The lack of cutting edge was, however, largely down to the absence of attacking talisman Chris Martin, as highlighted in the above tweet, and in-form loan star Darren Bent. These are two men who have returned over recent weeks, although the former is still nursing a few bumps and bruises, and they will be determined to make up for lost time.
With two proven marksman fit and available, it would take a brave man to write the Rams off – especially when you consider that the likes of winter recruit Tom Ince (see below), Jesse Lingard, Will Hughes, Simon Dawkins, Jamie Ward, Johnny Russell, Jeff Hendrick and Craig Bryson are on hand to provide creative and goalscoring support from wide and deep-lying posts.
If Derby can click, having now gone five without defeat, then they will be a real force heading forward – with their experience of the play-offs also likely to stand them in good stead.
They may not have happy memories from 12 months ago – as they suffered a dramatic defeat to Queens Park Rangers in the final at Wembley – but those endeavours mean that they know what it takes to go all the way, and have a burning desire to right a few wrongs.
In McClaren they also boast a wily tactician who was once good enough to land the England job and a man being widely linked with a number of Premier League posts ahead of the summer. His reputation is being restored in the Midlands and he would like nothing more than to silence a few more doubters by pulling up a pew at the top table.
All in all, Derby are a side to be respected and feared. They are not stepping into the unknown – with Bournemouth having never been this high and some time having passed since Ipswich and Middlesbrough were last knocking on this particular door – and they possess all of the tools to get the job done, if they can follow testing instructions.