Picture the scene: England require a goalless draw away from home against a team with aspirations of their own in their last match of a World Cup qualifying campaign to take their place at the finals.
What transpires is an ugly match and a feeling of clinging on for dear life in the closing minutes, before the final whistle blows and everyone in England colours pours on to the field in tears and embraces, having achieved a life-long ambition.
What you've just imagined actually happened. Rome, 1997, and Glenn Hoddle's side defy Italy and the odds to qualify as group winners for France '98.
It also, save for the finality of the match, happened last night in Kiev.
International qualifying campaigns are spasmodic by their very nature, and fixture lists do not have the even certainty of a club campaign. Ten games over 15 months is not exactly a scientific way of measuring which team is best, nor useful in establishing continuity or momentum but it's as good as we're going to get; it's certainly not as fair a barometer as a game a week for nine months as you get at club level.
Had the Group H fixtures fallen differently for Roy Hodgson, his England side might have been going to Ukraine next month requiring a goalless draw to finish as group winners and qualify for the World Cup. Had the result been achieved - the exact same result as last night - would the level of criticism, navel-gazing and despair have been the same as it is now?
Almost certainly not. And that's why Hodgson should be judged at the end of the campaign - not now.
If - and it is a big if - England fail to defeat both Montenegro and Poland at Wembley, then pile on. The end will not have justified Hodgson's means, and that's regardless of whether results elsewhere still shove England towards Brazil 2014, which could happen.
Oct 11 - England vs Montenegro, Ukraine vs Poland;
Oct 15: England vs Poland, San Marino vs Ukraine, Montenegro vs Moldova © ESPN.co.uk
The fact remains that Hodgson has kept England's destiny in their own hands. Yes, the performance in Kiev featured a lot of long punts and very little guile. Yes, the only victories England have tasted in World Cup qualifying have been against San Marino and Moldova. Yes, there needs to be a big (and completely unrealistic) improvement if England are going to have an extended run in Brazil next summer. (Spoiler alert: they won't.)
But England are in a strong position. Stronger than Portugal, who need help to avoid the play-offs, even with Cristiano Ronaldo - a talent far greater than anything Hodgson has to hand - at their disposal. And stronger than the Czech Republic, Denmark, Croatia, Ireland and Sweden, all of whom competed at the Euro 2012 finals 15 months ago but who are either already eliminated or trailing in their World Cup qualifying group.
Expect the games at Wembley next month to be tense affairs with similarly pragmatic tactics and managerial statements. But also expect England to win both games and get their ball in the Brazil 2014 finals pots.
The truth is that England are what they are: functional, tough to beat, unspectacular. That may be hard for the likes of Gary Lineker to accept, but bear in mind exactly how Lineker's England reached the World Cup semi-finals in 1990 - scrambled draw against Ireland (Lineker's goal was scored with his knee from about an inch), goalless draw with Netherlands, narrow one-goal wins over Egypt, Belgium and Cameroon. And that was with Paul Gascoigne performing at a level few England players have reached since. Coach Bobby Robson, pre-knighthood, went to Italia '90 knowing his reign was over, and few tears were being shed.
Two decades on, nothing has changed. That may be hard for England fans to accept, but it also isn't Roy Hodgson's fault. Fail to qualify from this point, though, and the blame game can begin in earnest.