“I’m not surprised it can swing so quickly,” Paul Clement said after his recently resurgent Swansea team lost their momentum against Hull at the KCOM Stadium.
“As quickly as you can make progress and look like you’re moving in the right direction, you can quickly go back the other way.”
Not quite Michael Corleone’s “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in,” but not far off either.
Clement is right; it doesn’t take long for things to turn around, and Saturday provided a close-up look at the scramble to avoid relegation.
Hull’s 2-1 win moves them within one point of 17th-placed Crystal Palace and three of Swansea, who are all of a sudden back in danger. Clement's side have matches against fellow relegation candidates Bournemouth and Middlesbrough upcoming to demonstrate that this Hull reverse is a one-off.
At the moment there seems to be about eight teams seeking to avoid what is likely to be the only available relegation spot. Only one place looks up for grabs because two teams in particular are circling the drain.
Sunderland are doomed. There is an air of despondency around the Stadium of Light. They are accustomed to late rallies around those parts but the fight appears to be gone out of them.
Middlesbrough will probably join their neighbours in the Championship. They were the big losers this weekend after slipping behind Hull and, like Sunderland, they didn’t even play a league match, having lost in the FA Cup to Manchester City.
Boro have only scored in two Premier League matches of eight since the turn of the year and are in free fall. A run of games against Swansea, Hull and Burnley at the start of next month will surely seal their fate.
Hull, meanwhile, were the closest thing to a hopeless case as you could find in the English top flight when Mike Phelan was sacked in January. Since Marco Silva’s appointment, however, there is a sense of renewed confidence around the place. There is plenty of work remaining but on this evidence they have the fortitude to drag themselves clear.
One of the obstacles could yet prove to be their own pitch. The Hull FC rugby league team play home fixtures in the same stadium and had a fixture Friday night before the football team played Saturday. Silva identified that issue as one of many problems Hull will have to sort out if they are to be serious about being a top-flight club.
Steve Bruce was so disillusioned he walked out at the start of the season, with Phelan’s short, unsuccessful spell confined to the dustbin of history. The Allam ownership of the club takes plenty of stick from fans but one call the family got undoubtedly right was the appointment of Silva. They also demonstrated their mettle in the transfer market. January’s upheaval has thrown the club a lifeline.
Boro failed to land any decent players in the January market — whether that was through a reluctance to invest or an inability to find the right targets — and Hull went all in.
The sales of Robert Snodgrass and Jake Livermore were tough to bear but gave Silva the opportunity to add numbers to a thin, wearied squad. It was a gamble by the owners but their action is surely preferable to the inaction elsewhere.
Loanee Oumar Niasse has now scored three vital Premier League goals following his brace against the Swans; he got none for Everton.
He started as a substitute here and sprung a jaded defensive line when he came on just after the hour. Starting the game were five other winter signings, which in itself describes how short the squad was on quality before that intervention.
Andrea Ranocchia - an Italy international on loan from Inter - is far too classy for a patch like this and will surely move up the league at the end of the season. Kamil Grosicki is a firm favourite already and starred at Euro 2016 with Poland. Other loanees Omar Elabdellaoui, Alfred N’Diaye and Lazar Markovic have also brought a degree of top-flight experience.
Swansea had a chance to put eight points between themselves and the relegation zone after a run of five wins in eight matches under Carlo Ancelotti’s former assistant. Victories were obtained not only against Southampton and Liverpool in that time but also against Crystal Palace, Burnley and Leicester - all candidates for the drop when Swansea took three points against each of them.
But the picture can change in an instant.
Just when it appears that one team is doomed - like Hull were before Silva appeared - they kick out of the death grip. And just when it appears that one team are ready to leave the mess behind - like Swansea were before Saturday - they are pulled back to the quagmire.