A crisis-relieving victory in the final test of England's tour of South Africa in June gave Eddie Jones some breathing space amid mounting criticism of his tenure.
A loss to the Springboks tomorrow at the start of a tough-looking schedule of November tests might see the doom-mongers return in force.
Less than a year out from the World Cup, coach Jones - and the England team as a whole - remain in a vulnerable place.
From February to June, England lost six tests in a row, a dramatic slump after the record-tying 18-match winning streak at the start of Jones' reign. A load of injuries have hit the playing squad hard. Just as unsettled is Jones' backroom staff, where there has been a high turnover recently, including the departure of defence coach Paul Gustard in May.
Then there are some eyebrow-raising squad selections - the continued omission of in-form first-five Danny Cipriani, for example - that have been jumped on by critics.
For the game against South Africa at Twickenham, Jones has picked Ben Te'o in midfield, despite the centre having played only 28 minutes for Worcester since May due to thigh and calf injuries.
Openside flanker Brad Shields got the call to a back row containing just 10 caps, even though he is struggling for form at club level with Wasps.
Owen Farrell has been handed a start in the No 10 jersey for only the third time, with long-time first-five George Ford dropped to the bench.
After a brilliant first two years in the job, Jones appears to be scratching around for a new formula with the World Cup in Japan looming. It was relatively easy to name England's best line-up amid their long winning run. That's not the case now.
South Africa look in good shape to add to the turmoil surrounding the England team. Beating the All Blacks 36-34 in September for a first victory in New Zealand in nine years was another confidence-booster after winning the test series against England 2-1 in June.
They almost made it two straight wins over the world champions but conceded two late tries to lose 32-30 in the final match of the Rugby Championship four weeks ago. Still, the Springboks played about as well as they had done all season.
South Africa will have Duane Vermeulen back after the No 8 missed the entire Rugby Championship after signing with Kubota Spears in Japan. With Warren Whiteley also back from a groin injury, the Springboks have a new and formidable back row led by captain Siya Kolisi.
Several European-based players, including lock Franco Mostert and backs Faf de Klerk, Willie le Roux and Cheslin Kolbe, are unavailable because the test is outside the international window.
England also play Australia and New Zealand this month.