Leicester are facing a grim twin prospect of failing to qualify for the Aviva Premiership playoffs and next season's European Champions Cup.
And Tigers captain Tom Youngs accepts there is no hiding place as they try to salvage something from a campaign that could end in crushing under-achievement.
Leicester's 25-23 home defeat against Newcastle means they will finish outside the Premiership's top four for the first time since 2004 if Wasps beat Northampton on Sunday.
And should Tigers fail to topple Sale Sharks next weekend, then a top six finish will probably prove beyond them, ending an envious record of playing top-flight European rugby in all 21 seasons English clubs have participated.
"It is very hard to digest at this precise moment," Youngs said.
"We have lost too many games this year and been on the bread-line of it all. For 13 years, the club has made the play-offs. We have scraped by in recent years, and that has probably caught up with us.
"It is hugely disappointing. I am captain, and the first captain not to succeed for 13 years... so yeah, there we go.
"You can't write your own destiny. You can try to control it as much as you like, but you can't, and that's the end of it. Sport is a cruel thing sometimes."
Newcastle No. 8 Ally Hogg's stoppage-time try, converted by scrum-half Sonatane Takulua, condemned Leicester to a seventh home defeat of the season in all competitions -- their worst return at Welford Road for more than 40 years.
It was also the Falcons' first win on Tigers soil since 1997 as they took a giant stride towards securing playoff status for the first time.
"We have got to go to Sale next week and we have got to win. End of," Youngs added. "It [Newcastle defeat] is a bitter blow and will live in my rugby career memory.
"Pride has been driving us on for ages. We can talk about pride and making the top six, but it is just about the group of players and supporters, that we get a win next weekend.
"I couldn't think of anything worse than not being top four and not making Europe.
"We can be bitterly disappointed, but we can't lose our heads, lose our focus, or lose our drive forward. We have been resilient all year, but we have just fallen short in the last couple of weeks, which is really hard to take.
"If we lose next weekend, it makes the next three months even longer, going into next season.
"We have slipped up a few too many times at home, and that has ultimately cost us. We will be hurting over the weekend.
"Leicester is a place where you can't get away from rugby sometimes. You go down the supermarket and someone wants to tell you you're rubbish. That's fine - they are entitled to that opinion.
"Leicester calls itself a family, so we are all in this together, and we win, lose, draw together. It is tough to take when you get to wear the shirt, which I love dearly, and you come up short. It is heartbreaking."