England will fight to the very last
It was like a who's who of English football and politics in the Baur Au Lac Hotel on Wednesday night. In one corner of the intimate lobby, where so much of the action is happening, there was David Beckham and Fabio Capello. In another, Richard Scudamore, the chief executive of the Premier League, chatting with Mohamed Bin Hammam, head of the Asian Football Confederation and Qatar's Fifa vice-president.
Lord Sebastian Coe, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Sports Minister Hugh Robertson were also out in force but the most amusing moment of the evening came when Mayor of London Boris Johnson bounded into the room.
Spotting Chuck Blazer, the American Fifa executive committee member sitting with the actor Morgan Freeman, Johnson made straight for the key voter, patting him on the arm before proceeding to fist pump his way around the room, urging 'Come on England'.
Just what the Fifa members made of all this is anyone's guess but any doubts over England's commitment to the 2018 World Cup campaign will surely have been swept away.
London Mayor Boris Johnson has added his weight to England's 2018 bid. Photo: PA
Upstairs in two luxury suites, Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince William were doing the hard talking with key voters in Thursday's election.
After meeting a series of the delegates on Tuesday, Cameron returned from prime minister's questions in Westminster to pick up where he left off by talking with Korea's Dr Chung Jong Moon, Thailand's Worawi Makudi and Japan's Junji Ogura.
Crucially, Prince William spent time with Jack Warner, the Trinidad vice-president who controls at least two of the three Concacaf votes England need to really stand a chance of winning Thursday's election. I understand Warner is now considered so important to England's chances that another meeting between him and Cameron is planned for Thursday morning - only hours before the official presentations.
It is this show of force and strategic lobbying by England's big-name ambassadors that has given their 2018 campaign hope that they can pull off what would be a quite extraordinary comeback.
On Monday, there was a real sense of despondency and defeatism as officials waited for BBC's Panorama programme to be broadcast.
There is no question that the programme had the potential to do England real lasting damage - particularly as Warner, who was accused of ticket touting, and African football chief Issa Hayatou were the main men in the firing line. So upset was Hayatou, who has since denied allegations of bribery, that he is said to have been close to tears in a Fifa executive committee meeting earlier this week. But by lunchtime - and following Cameron's arrival here - it became clear the English bid had not been fatally wounded.
And while other bids have perhaps become complacent over their core support, England have launched into a series of high-profile meetings, all tightly co-ordinated between 2018, Downing Street and Clarence House.
Such was the growing mood of optimism on Wednesday night that one Downing Street aide tried to dampen expectations amid fears that the England bid could wreck any chance it had of victory by appearing overconfident. "Although we are in there fighting hard," he told me, "we are still some way short of the votes we need."
That may well be the case - and the push for Warner remains critical - but, allowing for the difficulties in predicting any World Cup vote, England believe they have a strategy that can bring the event back to the country for the first time since 1966.
With insufficient support to secure the 12-vote majority needed to land a knockout blow in round one, England will have to build slowly and hope they can come up on the rails.
There were suggestions on Wednesday night that Spain and Portugal's much-talked about alliance with Qatar was wavering but it is still thought solid enough to ensure that the Iberian bid has seven or eight votes to win the first round.
Despite Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's absence, Russia still has a solid core of six or seven votes, with Fifa president Sepp Blatter, Franz Beckenbauer of Germany and their own Vitaly Mutko thought to be the strongest backers.
England's big-hitters campaigned long and hard in Zurich. Photo: Getty Images
For England, five votes might be enough to survive round one. With their own Geoff Thompson, Japan's Junji Ogura and Turkey's Senes Erzik on board, they believe they need only Warner of Trinidad and Blazer of the United States to get through.
The absolute best-case scenario would be that, in addition to that five, England get the backing of Concacaf's Rafael Salguero, who could also favour Spain-Portugal, Hayatou, Chung and the Ivory Coast's Jacques Anouma. That would be some achievement and would put England in the driving seat. However, it is a long shot.
If England can get enough votes to progress past the first round and the Netherlands-Belgium are eliminated, England would hope that the latter's supporters - Uefa president Michel Platini and Belgium's Dr Michel D'Hooghe - would switch to them.
That could give the England bid enough votes to beat the Russians and set up a showdown with Spain-Portugal in the final round.
The Iberian bid, notable by its absence in the Baur au Lac on Wednesday night, would still be hard to beat but England would hope that those voters who backed Russia in the first two rounds would be persuaded to make them their second preference. This is why meetings with Blatter and Cyprus member Marios Lefkaritis are viewed as so important.
England also hope their cause is boosted by a backlash from some Fifa executive committee members angry at the alliance between Spain-Portugal and Qatar, who are bidding for the right to stage the 2022 tournament.
Predicting any World Cup vote is near impossible, though, and England are preparing for at least three more scenarios: a possible first-round elimination; a first-round vote-off against the Netherlands-Belgium; or a final-round contest with Russia.
The significance of Putin's decision to stay away from Zurich and attack rivals for unfair competition is also difficult to read, although it is hard to believe he would not be here if there was even the slightest chance of victory.
People must also keep in mind that this is a secret ballot involving 22 men who may well say one thing and then do something completely different when the vote takes place.
But for England to now feel they are in with a chance of winning the right to stage the 2018 World Cup shows just how much progress they have made in such a short time given where they were at the start of the week.
UPDATE 0930 GMT
With the presentations under way at Fifa House, it is still not clear whether England's bid team managed to secure a crucial meeting with Jack Warner this morning. Number 10 sources told me that Prime Minister David Cameron had not met with the Trinidad vice-president but it is possible members of the bid did secure a breakfast meeting.
England are keen to do a deal with Warner that would really put them in with a chance of winning Thursday's vote. But can they secure enough core voters to offer Warner and Concacaf's bid for USA 2022 in return. Warner is understood to be playing his cards close to his chest and that may be why England are trying to dampening expectations.
UPDATE: 1110 GMT
England's bid presentation was by far the best so far. Slick and making the most of its heavyweight ambassadors - David Cameron, David Beckham and Prince William. Genuine warmth from Sepp Blatter, describing it as "excellent" and remarkable".
Using Eddie Adekafe, Manchester City's community development officer, as the link between the star turns was a clever move. The Prime Minister and Prince William were also impressive but if England win then Beckham's speech - in particular, his tear-jerking reference to his grandfather, who died a year ago today - will be the 'Seb Coe' moment.
There is some suggestion here that Engand's presentation could be good enough to sway one or two votes. But, as the England team troop off to a restaurant near the Messehalle to await their fate, minus Cameron, who is flying straight back to London for a meeting with the Prince of Wales, the big question is this: Is it too late to change the voters' minds or make them break their deals?