Grant still battling to convince
Avram Grant has safely negotiated the three games West Ham United's board earmarked for him to secure his job - but the fourth may yet be the defining moment of his brief reign.
Grant insists he knew nothing about whispers eminating from Upton Park's corridors of power and revealed by BBC Sport that he needed to get at least one win from meetings with Blackburn Rovers, Fulham and Everton to maintain their faith.
The 1-1 draw with Everton ensured Grant recorded a grand total of five points from these decisive dates. West Ham's wider context, however, still presents cause for concern.
The failure to hang on to a lead handed to them by Everton defender Tony Hibbert's second successive own goal at Upton Park - which constituted West Ham's only shot on target - means they stay in the Premier League's relegation zone.
Grant spoke with guarded optimism about the future and his plans for the January transfer window, but the manager who has already had one "Save Our Season" game this term will usher in 2011 with another when West Ham meet fellow strugglers Wolves at home on New Year's Day.
Avram Grant appears to have done enough to keep his job, until 2011 at least (Getty Images)
West Ham's board have publicly stated their determination to stand by the man they appointed in the summer, but defeat against Wolves is close to unthinkable if patience is not to be tested ahead of the crucial time when reinforcements must arrive.
Grant's last three matches have represented a revival of sorts and he was right to praise the spirit and endurance of his players after sharing the points with an Everton side who were resting on Boxing Day while West Ham were fighting it out at Fulham.
The taxing schedule may explain the lack of energy in West Ham's display and if Everton had anything like the end product to match their approach play then Grant may have ended the year with a defeat.
If this was a home game when victory was desirable, then the meeting with Wolves is one where victory is more or less compulsory for Grant and his players and they will need to approach it with greater vigour than they did against Everton.
Grant is planning for the months ahead and is banking on owners David Gold and David Sullivan working the markets to rejuvenate the squad, with Aston Villa's Steve Sidwell on the way and Reading's Shane Long another target. Victory against Wolves will make it so much easier for him to state his case for financial support in austere times at Upton Park.
He said: "I can tell you something about the owners. There was a debt of more than £100m and they are trying to do everything to stabilise the situation. Even with this, they know we need to make the team stronger.
"They know we have injuries to players and we need to make the team stronger. We are facing a lot of games. The squad needs to be bigger and stronger. I think they know this and are trying their best to find the financial solution to this."
A win against Wolves will also help to give Gold and Sullivan an extra conviction that Grant is the man to oversee this reshaping of the squad whereas defeat might just raise renewed doubts.
Grant at least has quality to work with in the shape of goalkeeper Robert Green, who was reliable on the rare occasions Everton tested him, and in the indefatigable Scott Parker.
Parker was again West Ham's outstanding performer, energetic in all parts of the pitch. If he is lost to this team under any circumstances their chances of staying in the top-flight would diminish considerably.
He has found a natural home at West Ham where he is adored and respected by these knowledgeable supporters. Parker deserves a more high-profile stage at international level and to watch him in action makes England coach Fabio Capello's decision to ignore his claims in favour of Manchester City's Gareth Barry even more mystifying.
After the football management came the expectation management from both Grant and his Everton counterpart David Moyes, who appears almost powerless to solve a glaring flaw in his team.
Grant shapes the expectations of West Ham supporters by talking of little other than survival while Moyes ensured Everton fans do not get carried away with the idea of big-money buys arriving in January, or indeed any time soon.
Everton's season of promise has descended into an unscheduled trip around mid-table mediocrity - and the reason comes as no surprise to regular observers. At the end of last season it was clear Moyes needed a high-class striker but a lack of funds forced him to gamble on free transfer Jermaine Beckford from Leeds United, with mixed results.
This faultline running through Everton has undermined their campaign and Moyes' lack of trust in his established strikers was betrayed by what many considered a negative team selection.
He left Beckford, Yakubu and Louis Saha on the bench and entrusted striking duties to leading scorer Tim Cahill, almost an admission of defeat against a West Ham team suffering with fragile confidence and an unflattering league placing. If Moyes cannot let his strikers loose with confidence against West Ham, when can he?
And so a familiar Everton story unfolded, with plenty of possession and a deserved equaliser from Seamus Coleman before a second half lacking urgency and incision that rarely threatened a winner.
Moyes said: "I thought if any team was going to win it, it was us but we didn't look as if we had the belief that we would score goals. We have just not been able to turn our good football into goals, although I thought it was really good football that produced our equaliser."
Everton's Stephen Pienaar tussles with Julien Faubert during the 1-1 draw with West Ham (Getty)
He added: "I think we've got a really good team." And he is right up to a point - a point where a team becomes not so good because they cannot score goals to round off a passing style that is pleasing on the eye.
The Scot shrugged his shoulders and shook his head when quizzed about the prospect of spending money next month, confirming he will once again be scouring the loan market.
It was a shrug of resignation rather than discontent as chairman Bill Kenwright does not appear able to come up with the funds to make a difference at Everton, with the resulting danger they are being overtaken in the battle for top six places.
With Australia's Cahill heading off to the Asian Cup and Steven Pienaar - the most accomplished player on show at Upton Park - sure to be at the centre of transfer speculation in January, Everton's attacking options could get worse before they get better.
If Pienaar's contract gripe centres on a reported wish for pay parity with Mikel Arteta, then he has a strong case on the evidence of a season in which his performance and attitude have been exemplary while the Spaniard has struggled.
For West Ham, Grant believes their season has been given fresh impetus by a three-match unbeaten league run. It is crucial to his and West Ham's future that it is maintained against Wolves on Saturday.