Laws thrown to the Wolves
At Turf Moor
Burnley will discover plenty of opponents only too willing to give them a push over the Premier League precipice in coming weeks without inflicting potentially fatal wounds on themselves.
It was always going to be a matter of who would blink - or blunder - first when the Premier League's poorest defence came up against the top flight's least potent attack at Turf Moor.
And so it proved as Burnley's Tyrone Mears committed the sort of error that, especially when made against your closest relegation rivals, can seal a club's fate as he gifted Wolves their crucial opening goal.
The air of resignation that hung over the ground at the final whistle, and as the assembled made their way out along Harry Potts Way, suggested Burnley's supporters are fearing the worst.
Wolves fans were perched joyously at the opposite end of the emotional scale after a win that moves their side away from the bottom three cut-off point and with a three-point cushion into the bargain.
Burnley manager Brian Laws cursed his ill-fortune, but a meagre total of one point from three home games against Portsmouth, Stoke City and Wolves may prove their season's tipping point, irrespective of Lady Luck's contribution. He might have dreamed of nine points but six should have been a reasonable return - one is unacceptable.
Brian Laws applauds Burnley's fans at the end of the game - but some of them were in no mood to reciprocate
Wolves counterpart Mick McCarthy, whose after-match analysis was as uncomplicated and lacking in frills as the team he manages, simply accepted the good fortune that came his way. And who can blame him? He will feel it was overdue.
Laws has had a tough introduction at Turf Moor after Owen Coyle's defection to Bolton, and he was right to insist his side were not inferior to Wolves. Indeed for spells they were better, but Wolves never looked like making the sort of mistake that put the skids under Burnley.
Clarke Carlisle was the culprit when Burnley lost to Pompey but this time it was Mears who was the villain with a header that never had a chance of reaching keeper Brian Jensen, presenting Matt Jarvis with the first goal that was always likely to prove decisive.
In a philosophical address in the match programme, Burnley chairman Barry Kilby said: "We may be relegated, we may not. Fate will decide." On this evidence the fates may have already taken their decision - and it does not bode well.
Adlene Guedioura's shot was neither here nor there until it struck the unfortunate Carlisle and proved too much for Jensen, who maybe should have done better.
Laws walked into a harsh environment when he succeeded Coyle and it is not getting any easier for this likeable manager. The hearts and minds of some Burnley fans needed to be won over as he was handed a Premier League job just weeks after leaving Championship side Sheffield Wednesday - not exactly the normal route map to a managerial post in the top tier.
The fixture list did not help his cause and the sense around Turf Moor is that this club has still not got over the shock of Coyle not just leaving, but leaving for Bolton. It came as a savage setback and Laws has that to contend with as well as a relegation fight and Coyle's rejuvenation of Bolton.
He was the target for Turf Moor's frustration when he removed the popular Chris Eagles after Wolves' second goal. To say it was not greeted with unanimous approval is putting it mildly. The reaction was toxic, an outpouring of anger that may have been building for some time, not just on Saturday.
Laws declared himself "disappointed" with the crowd's response. Eagles had, to the naked eye, looked one of Burnley's better performers, but Laws almost pulled it off with one substitute Steve Thompson pulling a goal back and another, Robbie Blake, hitting the post. Managers can make or lose a reputation on such fine margins.
Burnley did not lack spirit, but some of the optimism and belief has disappeared from the Turf Moor I experienced earlier this season. Anxiety and fear are their replacements as the growing realistation that this spell in the promised land could be brief hits home.
For Wolves, Saturday's result was a significant step towards extending their stay in the Premier League. Work remains to be done, but McCarthy's prickly and offended reaction to a suggestion that they still could not afford to rest on their laurels suggests their manager is grimly aware of this fact.
As if McCarthy would ever rest on his laurels. And before Wolves fans ask - no, I will never approve of his decision to field the reserves and concede defeat at Manchester United, even if they stay up.
He has, however, fashioned a workmanlike, honest side that looks to have the layers of resilience required to give them a decent chance of maintaining their status. Wolves are cast in the image and likeness of McCarthy, so they will be up for the fights that will confront them.
McCarthy (right) and assistant Terry Connor celebrate an important victory
They will not get the sort of favours Burnley bestowed on them too often in the closing weeks of this season, but the realist in McCarthy will know you take what you can get, no matter how you get it, when Premier League survival is at stake.
Kevin Doyle provides an excellent point of attack. He is brave too, as he proved by willingly going into a bone-jarring collision with "The Beast" Jensen, the Burnley keeper launching himself at Doyle like a wrecking ball draped in a football kit. Brave, or maybe borderline foolhardy given the burly figure he was crashing into. When "The Beast" hits you, you stay hit.
Jarvis' goal, meanwhile, was reward for his steady improvement this season that drew rich praise from McCarthy, as well as his anticipation in taking a chance on Mears' mistake. All the good news belonged to Wolves as their elated fans celebrated noisily. McCarthy has never wavered in his conviction that Wolves could stay up, and in that context this ranks among their biggest results of the season.
Laws must hope his and Burnley's luck turns - but there were ominous signs after this damaging defeat that he is having trouble maintaining the mantra of belief he preaches constantly.
If this grand old club, and the supporters who have made Turf Moor such an enthralling arena to experience, are to sample Premier League football again next season that transformation must start away at Wigan next Saturday.