Seven games to go and eight points ahead. Leeds United have waited 16 years, and they will surely not have to wait much longer to get over the line and return to the Premier League.
Their backs-to-the-wall victory over Fulham, as convincing by the end as it was unlikely in the first half, put them emphatically back on course after the wobble of defeat at Cardiff City in their first game back.
Mathematically, 13 points are still required to be absolutely sure with Brentford now offering the hottest pursuit. Even if that number is needed, Leeds will be more than confident with the fixtures that are in front of them.
However, the prospect of hosting Luton Town on Tuesday night will be a less exciting one than they may have thought just a couple of weeks ago.
The Hatters made the shock move last month to bring Nathan Jones back to the club, 16 months after his acrimonious departure for a miserable spell at Stoke City, and the making-up of manager and club has resulted in a rejuvenated challenge for Championship survival.
Luton had in fact taken 11 points from the final six games of Graeme Jones’ reign, but that form meant little after a three-month break. After Callum McManaman’s late strike earned a draw with Preston North End, they headed to another play-off contender in Swansea City and secured a 1-0 win through a James Collins header.
There is a long way still to go, but the early signs are good, and with misfiring Stoke, Hull City and Huddersfield Town outfits all within four points, Luton have given themselves a wonderful opportunity to stay up.
Claiming anything from a visit to Elland Road would be further evidence that they can make the escape.
Pablo Hernandez made a typically impactful return in Leeds’ victory over Fulham, and after impressing off the bench, he will be in line to start against Luton.
Jean-Kevin Augustin is yet to return and this may his last chance to do so if an extension to his loan from RB Leipzig is not secured. Kiko Casilla remains suspended and Adam Forshaw injured.
Luton have agreed short-term extensions with Luke Berry, Danny Hylton, Elliot Lee, McManaman, Jacob Butterfield and Glen Rea, but five players – Marek Stech, Frankie Musonda, Donervon Daniels, Lloyd Jones and Jake Jervis – have been released.
The loan spells of Luke Bolton, James Bree, Izzy Brown and Cameron Carter-Vickers are due to expire after this match but the club say discussions are ongoing to secure extensions.
Kazenga LuaLua is nearing a return from a knee injury, but Brendan Galloway (knee) and Eunan O’Kane (leg) are expected to miss the rest of the season.
Leeds: Meslier; Ayling, Cooper, White, Dallas; Phillips; Costa, Klich, Hernandez, Harrison; Bamford.
Luton: Sluga; Pearson, Carter-Vickers, Bradley, Potts; Rea, Mpanzu, Tunnicliffe; Cornick; Lee, Collins.
What the managers have said
After the victory over Fulham, Whites full-back Ezgjan Alioski emphasised that promotion is not in the bag yet.
“We can’t take notice of the eight points,” he said of their advantage over third-placed Brentford. “It’s nice to have them, but we have to be focused game-by-game.
“We need to forget how many points we are in front, we need to go game-by-game. We have seven games and we want to win in the seven games.”
Luton manager Jones took pride in the encouraging start to his second spell in charge following their win at Swansea, but knows they face a tougher challenge at Elland Road.
He said: “Apart from Brentford we’ve probably got the toughest of starts, but we’ve embraced it. We haven’t cried about it, we haven’t been scared about it, so we’re moving in the right direction.
“Four points in two games, I would have taken that all day long and now we go to Leeds trying to add to that.
“For me they are the most difficult side to play against and it’s going to be a great test, but what a wonderful test.”
Leeds required a 90th-minute own goal from Matty Pearson to come away from Kenilworth Road with the three points when the sides met in November.
Patrick Bamford’s opener was cancelled out by James Collins but the pressure eventually told as the home side were denied a draw.
That was a fourth win from the last five meetings between the teams, with Luton’s 5-1 win in 2006 the only time they have got the better of Leeds in 11 clashes going back to 1990. Their last win at Elland Road came in the League Cup in 1988.
Where to watch
Kick-off is set for 19:45 on Tuesday June 30th.