Speculation is growing for a dramatic late entry into the General Election race by Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey.
Party sources are strongly tipping Sir Reg to be the Conservative-UUP candidate in South Antrim, in a “make or break” move.
He would be up against the DUP's William McCrea, who won the seat from the Ulster Unionists five years ago.
There is an acceptance within UUP ranks that defeat on May 6 for Sir Reg would be a fatal blow for his leadership.
But they hope his high-profile candidature will enhance the chances of a DUP defeat and secure a badly-needed win.
The UUP's alliance with the Tories has led to the departure of its sole MP Lady Sylvia Hermon, who will be defending North Down on an independent ticket.
A General Election campaign that failed to produce any seats for the Tory-UUP alliance would be a disaster for the Ulster Unionists and their leader.
Further complicating the situation is the UUP's very vocal opposition to double jobbing by politicians.
It means the leader would have to commit himself to quitting the Assembly in the event of being elected to Parliament.
And that would mean a new leader being needed at Stormont — and a replacement taking over from Sir Reg as Employment Minister.
He has made no comment on the speculation about South Antrim.
Party sources have indicated that internal discussions on finalising a candidate are at an |advanced stage. There is an expectation that an official announcement will be made by the end of the week, if not today.
UUP Antrim Mayor Adrian Watson was controversially blocked as a candidate in recent weeks, with the Tories refusing to ratify his selection.
He had faced controversy over past comments objecting to gay couples staying in his family's bed and breakfast.
South Antrim was a long-time safe seat for the UUP.