The final series of matches in a gripping SSE Airtricity League first division campaign commence tomorrow with Waterford FC's clash against Galway United carrying deep importance at the RSC (7.45pm ).
Friday's disappointing 2-2 draw with Wexford FC at Eamonn Deacy Park was a significant setback for United. With Cork City cruising to victory over Athlone Town it now means United trail the Leesiders, who also have an extra game to play, by three points.
Ultimately it means the imminent clash down south is vital for United with manager John Caulfield aware of Waterford's considerable footballing ability.
"We have known this from the start of the season," Caulfield says. "They got relegated, they decided to keep most of their team, and to invest heavily. They have a very strong British influence in their team, they intended to go straight back up.
"Sometimes it isn't as simple as that, and obviously with ourselves out there, and Cork out there, it was always going to be a tough challenge."
With Waterford beginning to generate momentum once more, Caulfield is expecting a demanding assignment."They have dropped to third, but I'm sure they still see themselves with an outside chance of winning the league," he adds.
"Obviously playing ourselves on Friday and Cork on Monday, they probably feel that two wins would bring them within touching distance of the top. So we know how difficult this game will be.
"They only knocked St Pat's out of the cup so we are well aware of their strengths. At the same time we won in the RSC earlier in the season when we played really well, we need to play really well again.
"In general looking at the Wexford game our play was really good, it was just the concession of two disappointing goals cost us in the end."
During an eventful tussle Rob Manley and Stephen Walsh contributed goals for United, but a burst from an industrious Wexford side in the opening period proved costly.
"Overall our performance was quite good," Caulfield says. "We started the game very well, we went ahead. Really against the run of play we gave away a soft goal, then we conceded from a set piece.
"All of a sudden having been in a very commanding position we were 2-1 down within the space of 10 minutes halfway through the first half. We regained our composure again, Alex Moody made a fantastic save from Stephen Walsh just before half-time."
After the restart United, prompted by Bastien Hery, fashioned a string of opportunities. "Certainly in the second half we were totally dominant, Wexford are a very good team, very good on the counter attack," Caulfield says.
"They were always dangerous, but in the second half we had numerous chances. Their goalkeeper had a man of the match performance, he made two fantastic saves, we hit the crossbar, and then Stephen Walsh equalised.
"You want to go on to win the game, but unfortunately on the night we didn't. To be fair to the lads - as I keep saying - once they leave everything on the pitch that is what you ask for.
"I think the crowd appreciated that at the end. They had done everything except get the winner."
Caulfield remains optimistic on the eve of another vital match. "I keep saying it is all about the players building on their performances, trying to be more consistent, trying to get better," he says.
"You learn from experience and from mistakes you made in the past, that is how you become a better player. Hopefully for us as a group and as a team that will happen, that we will continue to get better. I feel that from last season we have made massive improvements, but still at the same time it is a very tough league to win."