West Ham United's supporters are accustomed to the agony that is the extension of faint hope, so perhaps they will find the time leading up to Saturday's lunchtime kick-offs endurable. Needing to win to keep alive an outside chance of automatic promotion, Sam Allardyce's side duly came from behind to beat Leicester City: now they need only for Southampton to lose at home to already relegated Coventry while they beat Hull at home to avoid the purgatory that is the play-offs. Should the Saints be held to a draw, the Hammers would have to beat the Tigers – who have found good form of late – by four goals.
"We got what we wanted under enormous pressure and we've stayed in the race until the end," said Allardyce. "Now we have to do our job on Saturday, deliver a good sound victory and hope Coventry, with nothing to lose, can do us a favour. "Who knows? Everyone expects Southampton to win, but the pressure on them is enormous, they will be more nervous now than they will have been before this game, and we've seen a lot of upsets this season. It's a slim chance and whatever happens it's still been a very good season."
The primary threat to the Foxes in the opening minutes was their own lackadaisical defending. Danny Drinkwater and Sol Bamba were both caught in possession in their own penalty area in short order, affording Jack Collison the chance for a shot which Kasper Schmeichel had to dive full length to save.
The home supporters had to wait until midway through the half to see their side create a chance. Lloyd Dyer, on for the injured Richie Wellens, picked out an unmarked Jermaine Beckford with a cross from the left only for the centre-forward to plant his header wide.
Beckford's embarrassment did not last long. Picking up possession on the right wing, Ben Marshall turned past Matt Taylor and delivered a nicely flighted cross for the striker to rise above James Tomkins and head firmly past Robert Green.
Barely had the first ironic chants of 'We're going to Wembley' been heard from the travelling fans when the game was level. Again the goal resulted from a crossed ball, this time driven in hard and low by Taylor. With Schmeichel unmoved on his line and no Leicester defender reacting, Winston Reid had only to put out his foot to turn the ball into the goal.
It was a determined West Ham which re-emerged after the break and Mark Noble's thumping angled volley came within a foot of putting them into the lead. Kevin Nolan should at least have made Schmeichel save instead of scooping the ball high over the bar when faced with only the goalkeeper to beat from the edge of the penalty area, but fortunately for the Hammers Collison did have his shooting boots on. The Wales international was perfectly positioned when Gary O'Neil's shot was blocked and, from around 24 yards, his low drive was hit too firmly for Schmeichel to keep out.
The remaining half hour was a painfully nervous one for the visitors, during which even Allardyce would concede the 4-3-3 he usually insists he has sent his team out to play became a solid 4-5-1. For the most part, they restricted Leicester to shots from distance, easily saved by Green.
However often the club's supporters remind Allardyce that they're 'West Ham United and they play on the floor', the former Bolton manager has overseen a record-breaking season in at least one respect: this was West Ham's 13th win away from Upton Park, a club best.
Pearson, meanwhile, is anticipating a busy summer. "I'm very clear in my mind what we need to do and it's important we make changes," said the Leicester manager.