Newcastle United lost at Arsenal on Saturday 16 December, meaning they entered the Premier League festive fixtures in a relegation spot on only 15 points from 18 games.
With only West Brom and Swansea below, Rafa’s team had the likes of Southampton, West Ham, Bournemouth and Crystal Palace all above them.
Newcastle faced four games over the festive period, the first and fourth matches only separated by nine days.
With Manchester City at home looking a write-off, it left difficult away relegation clashes at West Ham and Stoke, as well as a home match against mid-table Brighton.
If offered five points from the four games, I doubt many Newcastle fans would have turned it down.
However, as you can see from the table below, Newcastle did far far better than any of us had a right to expect, so full credit to Rafa and his players.
Sky Sports table of the four festive fixtures for each Premier League club:
In the lead up to the festive period, the vast majority of Newcastle supporters had been forced to accept the limitations of this squad, which had badly needed more quality added in the summer but Mike Ashley refusing to allow Rafa to do so.
Shopping on a very tight budget had left the manager with a hard working team/squad of good characters but limited quality when it came to scoring and stopping goals going in at the other end.
The return to fitness of Jamaal Lascelles a big bonus at one end anywhere.
With only one point from twenty seven before this four game period, to take seven points from twelve was a very welcome Christmas/New Year present.
With so many games in such a short time period, it is definitely a massive advantage for the top six clubs who have the squads with the highest quality and numbers.
If you look at the top seven in the festive Premier League table above, you can see Newcastle are surrounded by those six predictable clubs.
If Newcastle do eventually reach safety, I think this four game period will have been the key time when the season was turned around under the utmost pressure.
Rafa’s team emerged from the festive programme having climbed from 18th to 13th in the table, with now 22 points from 22 games, with the likes of Southampton, Bournemouth, West Ham and Crystal Palace all below them.
If Newcastle had ended up with say two points from twelve, just like West Brom and Southampton, I think the writing would have been on the wall for NUFC.