NPFL Final Day: Complete Preview
A thrilling penultimate round of NPFL action has left various key storylines of the season unresolved ahead of the final day.
Despite establishing a four-point stranglehold at the top of the table, league leaders Plateau United travelled to relegation-threatened Wikki Tourists last weekend in the knowledge that anything but a win would take the title race to the last day.
Bauchi is not the easiest place to go looking for points, and certainly with the home side desperate for a result.
Ultimately, Wikki claimed a 1-0 win and United will have to do it at home on the last day of the season when they host fallen giants Enugu Rangers, who would surely love little more than to leave their mark on the title race after winning the championship last term.
In second place, surprise package MFM FC face an El-Kanemi Warriors side who may be a fearsome prospect at home, but who cannot reach the top four or be relegated this term.
A draw would not be enough for MFM to take the title due to a significantly inferior goal difference, but win in Borno State, and they would heap pressure on United.
Nigeria's commercial capital of Lagos State has been without continental football since Julius Berger were eliminated in the group stages of the 2004 CAF Champions League.
On Sunday, the Church Boys beat Nasarawa United 2-0 after Stanley Okorom curled in an excellent freekick to open the scoring then set up Tchato Giscard to head home a second with an imperiously delivered freekick.
The win not only confirmed MFM's place in the CAF Champions League along with Plateau United, it also shaved the leaders' advantage to one point heading into the final round of the season.
Things could yet get better.
If MFM win at El Kanemi, and Plateau stumble at home, the young upstart club, who were only promoted to the top flight for the first time in 2015, would end up as champions.
Talk about a fairy tale!
Slightly below the leaders, five teams were in with a shout of claiming third place and getting into the CAF Confederation Cup ahead of the penultimate day.
Akwa United occupied the position heading into their game in Ibadan, with Enyimba uncomfortably close. There could be no mistakes for United if they were to take a major step closer towards their return to the big time...but Shooting Stars had other ideas.
Akwa went down 1-0 to Shooting, Enyimba earned a draw at Rangers, and the Peoples' Elephant leapfrogged the Promise Keepers into the top three.
Losses for Ifeanyi Ubah, Nasarawa United and El Kanemi saw them all drop out of contention, and heading into the final day, Enyimba, hosting Katsina United, only need to match United's result at home against Kano Pillars to secure a return to Africa.
While things are relatively cut and dry at the top of the table, down at the bottom, things are a little murkier.
Last weekend, Gombe United had their relegation confirmed after losing 3-0 to Rivers United.
That leaves two more unwanted places up for grabs, and there are several teams who could yet drop into the second tier, with 53 points being the only absolute guarantee of safety.
Wikki Tourists, with 50 points and two places above Gombe, visit this weekend knowing a win would guarantee their safety.
That leaves ABS (49 pts) who play Nasarawa away, but even a win could not be enough to secure safety depending on other results.
Shooting Stars (50 points) play away to Niger Tornadoes (51 points), where victory for either side would guarantee their place in the top tier next season. Tornadoes would almost certainly be safe with a draw considering their superior goal difference over ABS.
Abia Warriors (50 pts) host Rivers United (52 points), while Sunshine Stars (51 points) travel to already relegated Remo Stars, who appear to be rushing to set a no-win record at breakneck speed.
All considered, expect the bottom four to be Remo, Gombe, ABS and Shooting Stars, with the Tourists sneaking clear on the final day.