The whistle blew but Dean Smith did not trust it. This was not the end. This was not over.
He did the obligatory round of fist bumps, elbow touches, the strange little acknowledgements and gestures that are our new language, but his face remained etched with worry.
John Terry’s, too. Taking his lead from his senior partner, he also kept his fixed expression. Game on. Face on. No smiles, nothing that hinted at the joy about to unfold.
Aston Villa were keeping abreast of events elsewhere — the way they played for much of the afternoon confirmed that — and the players were updated on their status at each drinks break and at half-time. A point had been secured, and that was assured, but the staff knew that Watford’s game at Arsenal was ongoing.
It was the longest of shots, Watford’s survival. They needed to score two goals, probably in as many minutes, to win 4-3 from 3-0 down. Yet it has been done. Titles have been won with the final attack of the match, promotions missed on added-time events as recently as last Wednesday.
In 1994, Sheffield United went from 15th at 4.14pm to relegated half an hour later. Smith was only interested in finite mathematical outcomes. Not probabilities.
And so the Villa group gathered in a huddle on the centre of the London Stadium pitch and listened. Plainly, someone at home was watching the Watford game, counting down the seconds, and probably on a delayed feed because television viewers knew Villa were safe some moments before the news was fed to the group.