Tottenham Hotspur have felt the breath of their rivals getting hotter and hotter in recent weeks and after this, they could also feel the flush of panic. Towards the end of February, the club looked set to swagger their way into next season's Champions League. Nothing is certain now. Fluttering nerves abound.
Harry Redknapp's players could not even fall back on excuses. They were second best in all areas to a Norwich City team who, in the words of their manager Paul Lambert, produced the "best performance" of his three-year tenure. From the front, where Grant Holt and Aaron Wilbraham bullied Tottenham's defenders, to the back, where the goalkeeper John Ruddy made a breath-taking save to deny Benoit-Assou Ekotto, Lambert's men covered themselves in glory.
The volume of the boos from the home crowd at full-time told their own story. Frustration has gripped these parts. It might be mere co-incidence that Tottenham have won only two league games since 8 February, the date that Fabio Capello became England's ex-manager and Redknapp was installed as his heir apparent. But nobody can argue that Tottenham have picked an inopportune time to falter.
They looked laboured, uninspired and, despite a flicker at the start of the second-half, when Assou-Ekotto was thwarted, after a one-two with the substitute Emmanuel Adebayor, and Gareth Bale curled a shot against the crossbar, there was the sense that Norwich were the likelier winners.
They took the points with a glorious goal, one that Elliott Bennett will never forget. The winger, who arrived last summer from Brighton & Hove Albion, hit a 20-yard drive so sweetly that it fairly fizzed past Brad Friedel into the far corner. It was Bennett's first goal in the Premier League. He might never score a better one.
It sent Lambert springing skyward and punching the air. Earlier, he had looked close to punching the fourth official. He lurched through the gamut of emotions and at times, you had to worry about his blood pressure. The Glaswegian's touchline agonies are exhausting to behold. But in a season where his team have confounded expectations, he could permit himself a moment of satisfied reflection.
"If you sit back and analyse it, it's ridiculous what's happened here," Lambert said. "The club was close to folding … you inherit a group of lads [in August 2009] who you're not sure are good enough to get out of League One. To beat Tottenham in their own back yard is incredible. I couldn't even spell Tottenham three years ago. Collectively, we were absolutely brilliant. The players are young and they're making a name for themselves. I don't want people to dismiss them as little old Norwich."
Tottenham lost Younes Kaboul to a knee injury which, according to Redknapp "doesn't look very good," while Ledley King's body took another battering. With William Gallas missing, there are concerns in central defence ahead of Sunday's FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea.
Tottenham mustered a reply to Anthony Pilkington's early goal through Jermain Defoe yet his ice-cool finish was a rare moment of class. After Bennett's strike, they had no answers. Heads appeared to drop. Even Redknapp sounded happy to reappraise targets.
"We'd settle for finishing fourth," he said. "It would be lovely to finish above Arsenal … but it's still all to play for. I don't think we'll have to win all five of our remaining games. Chelsea play Newcastle. They can't both win. We had a bad day today. One or two didn't look quite right."
Kaboul and King were prominent among that number, and the former erred on the opening goal, taking a heavy touch to be dispossessed by Pilkington. There were comic defensive cuts before the ball broke back for the Norwich winger, who bent his shot past Friedel.
Holt was immense and it was difficult to remember King having a harder time against an opposing centre-forward. The pair grappled repeatedly but when King pulled Holt's shirt inside the area on 32 minutes, Norwich sensed an opportunity to pull clear. To the vein-bulging fury of Lambert, though, there was no penalty award. He sprinted down the tunnel to remonstrate with Phil Dowd, the fourth official, and his anger was compounded when Jake Livermore slid Defoe straight through to chip Ruddy. Lambert grabbed his water bottle and hurled it with all of his force.
Norwich, though, remained the more precise with their passing and intense with their pressing. Pilkington and Elliott Ward drew first-half saves from Friedel; Bradley Johnson blazed over when gloriously placed on 59 minutes. Lambert felt further conspiracy when Adebayor bundled into Wilbraham inside the area and there was no whistle but Bennett triggered the explosion of joy inside of him.
Lambert looked as though he could do with a lie-down. He had earned it.