Northampton captain Dylan Hartley's British and Irish Lions hopes appear to lie in tatters after he was sent off for dissent during Saints' 37-17 Aviva Premiership final defeat against Leicester at Twickenham.
The England hooker was dismissed during first-half injury time by referee Wayne Barnes for appearing to swear in the official's direction. Hartley had been warned about his conduct just two minutes beforehand.
He could now face a minimum six-week ban. Rugby Football Union disciplinary bosses are unlikely to take a lenient view, considering he has already served three previous suspensions during his firebrand career.
Hartley can expect a disciplinary hearing early next week. The Lions leave London for Hong Kong on Monday, with Hartley currently one of three hookers among a 37-man squad.
Lions head coach Warren Gatland, a strict disciplinarian, could now launch an immediate search to replace Hartley. Ireland hooker Rory Best would be favourite to join a trip that is highlighted by three Tests against Australia.
An incident-packed final saw Leicester skipper Toby Flood not last the first half because of concussion, while Northampton assistant coach Dorian West, speaking during a pitchside television interview, accused Leicester boss Richard Cockerill of "intimidating" match officials.
The game ultimately went Tigers' way as wings Niall Morris and Vereniki Goneva, lock Graham Kitchener and Lions centre Manu Tuilagi scored tries, with Flood booting a penalty and conversion and his replacement George Ford kicking four penalties.
But Northampton, despite being down to 14 men for half the contest, conjured tries as Stephen Myler, Ben Foden and Lee Dickson all collected touchdowns, with Myler adding one conversion.
Leicester deservedly lifted their first Premiership title since 2010 in front of an 81,000 crowd, but it will be overshadowed by Hartley's red card and the ensuing fall-out.