The emotional heft of stretched ambition is taking its toll on Celtic.
By the time the misfiring Scottish champions kick-off at home against St Johnstone this afternoon, they could be 14 points behind Rangers, who play Ross County at Dingwall at midday. There is no escaping the sense of both catch-up and reconnection for Neil Lennon.
The beleaguered Hoops boss remains in charge, with Parkhead 10 in a row dreams delicate. Under Lennon's watch, Celtic have floundered in too many key games, and the sloth served up as Ross County knocked them out of the Betfred Cup was brutal viewing for increasingly desperate fans.
As this team lurches, the anxiety is only increased by the upsurge of Rangers. At Ibrox, Steven Gerrard is guiding a team which has scored 67 goals in 23 games and are 11 points clear in the League. The Gers are through to the Europa League knockout stages with a game to spare - and yet to lose a game at home or abroad.
In this current vacuum between Parkhead powerbrokers and the supporter base in general, all kinds of theories - many unhinged - rise to the surface. In the last few days, I've heard everyone from the backroom and medical staff at Celtic being blamed for the depth of the malaise.
There is no doubt that had a section of Celtic fans not disgraced themselves and their club with violent actions in the heated hour after crashing out of the Cup to County last Sunday, Lennon would have been relieved of his duties.
The irony has not been lost on many supporters who were embarrassed by the widely broadcast scenes in a city with, more significantly, Covid Tier 4 status. With mob rule causing criminal damage and injuries to three police officers outside Celtic Park, it was enough to provide the club's board with the wriggle room needed to retain Lennon. Majority shareholder Dermot Desmond and chief executive Peter Lawwell are not the sort of people to give in to zealots causing mayhem.
If Lennon, as it has been argued, is managing a gradual decline of the remnants of Brendan Rodgers' all-conquering outfit, then Celtic need, at least, to look after the most important person in their employ. We are still in December and, although the ongoing hysteria is damaging PR for the club, the Northern Irishman, whether most fans like it or not, has enough time to get a harmonious tune - as opposed to the current flat drone - out of his players.
Celtic's own statement, addressing last weekend's mutinous atmosphere, noted that players were "shaken" by the thuggery taking place just yards away from where they were getting bundled into vehicles post-match. Amid this fractious landscape, it is understandable that some - particularly the foreign players who are, perhaps, not as invested in the current 10 in a row obsession - may be considering an ejector seat reservation in the January transfer window. For those, like Kristoffer Ajer, whose confidence has been hit because of jittery personal displays and poor results, it is only human nature that frenzied outbursts are unlikely to inspire them.
Despite Thursday's very promising first half in the eventual loss to AC Milan in the San Siro as Celtic fulfilled their ill-fated Europa League obligations, in general too many individuals have regressed while Rangers' counterparts have improved.
An example: Steven Davis has shown no signs of veteran weariness in a busy schedule for the Light Blues as Scott Brown labours for Celts.
It is Rangers' form and confidence which duly magnifies the struggles in Glasgow's east end. In particular, the concession of just three Premiership goals by the Ibrox side is the sort of statistic a fragmented Celts rearguard can only dream of.
Everyone has an opinion on what is going wrong at Celtic beyond the reality of exiting the Europa League, League Cup and Premiership stuttering. Nevertheless, the truth is likely somewhere in the middle; in the sense that Lennon's men are not as bad as has been suggested, where there is, too, sufficient time to chip into Rangers' handsome advantage.
The inexplicable margins are, though, hurting Celtic. Diminished fitness and focus, plus Lennon's unprompted decision to throw several players under the bus after the Champions League qualifying debacle against Ferencvaros, are thorns in these fresh attempts to rejuvenate matters.
The delayed Scottish Cup Final against Hearts in a fortnight's time presents Lennon with an opportunity to reset. It may still provide the spark he badly needs. Especially this, of all seasons for Celtic.