In Focus: Four in trouble as Championship survival scrap intensifies
It is nearly crunch time in the Championship relegation scrap with Derby, Peterborough, Barnsley and Reading all in danger of going down.
With Birmingham — currently in 19th — 14 points clear of the drop zone and Hull 13 clear of the bottom three in 20th, it is now virtually assured it will be three of the bottom four who will slip into League One come May.
Derby hopes starting to fade
Derby are currently bottom after what has been an extremely difficult campaign for the Rams.
They have done remarkably well to still be in with an outside chance of survival after being deducted 21 points earlier this season.
But with Wayne Rooney's side eight points off safety having played a game more than their three rivals, it is beginning to look ominous.
The East Midlands club were always facing the most difficult of tasks trying to stay up but they started to give themselves a fighting chance of pulling off the greatest of great escapes with three successive wins in December over Blackpool, West Brom and Stoke.
They only managed one victory in January against Sheffield United as things took a turn for the worse again.
But they bravely kept their hopes up with February triumphs over fellow strugglers Hull and Peterborough to ensure they were not cast adrift.
However, just one win in their last seven — albeit against another of the relegation candidates Barnsley — means Rooney's men need to string together a significant run of victories again in their remaining seven games if they are to give themselves any chance of pulling off a miracle.
It has been a gallant attempt from the Rams, who have displayed plenty of collective spirit in the face of ongoing off-field uncertainty but, for all their efforts, relegation is beginning to look inevitable.
Royals with the advantage
Of the other three, Reading are clearly best placed to avoid the drop.
The Royals are currently one place above the bottom three and have managed to open up a five-point gap between themselves and Barnsley directly below.
Successive wins in February over Preston and Birmingham were quickly followed up by three defeats on the spin but they have since picked up a couple of very creditable results to manoeuvre themselves ahead of their rivals.
A 1-1 draw at Bournemouth and a 1-0 success over Blackburn last time out mean they will approach Saturday's huge clash at Barnsley with plenty of confidence.
If they can win at Oakwell and extend that gap over the Tykes to eight points, they will inch themselves that bit closer to survival.
Tykes face key clashes against rivals
Barnsley, likewise, also know the importance of this weekend's game and if they can pick up all three points then they too will begin to believe they can stay up.
The South Yorkshire outfit went three games unbeaten at home at the start of the month with successive 1-1 draws against Stoke and Fulham before a 2-0 win over Bristol City.
But a 2-0 loss at the hands of Sheffield United before the international break quickly put a halt to the optimism.
Poya Asbaghi's side are likely to be in the thick of the relegation scrap until the end of the season and will already have one eye on the potentially pivotal home showdown with second-bottom Peterborough on April 18.
Problems at Posh
Which leads us nicely on to Posh. Grant McCann's side are just a point ahead of Derby and seven shy of safety ahead of back-to-back home games against Middlesbrough and Luton — two sides very much in the play-off hunt.
Peterborough were on a dismal streak of 15 league without a win before they finally got a victory at QPR last time out but their season stats make for miserable reading.
Posh have won just six games throughout the campaign, they have conceded the most goals (76) and only Barnsley in the division have scored fewer times than their 32 so far.
That huge April date against the Reds is already beginning to loom large but they will surely need victories in the intervening period if they are to finish the season outside the bottom three.