Newcastle's chaotic season took another turn for the worse on Wednesday when it emerged that manager Joe Kinnear needs heart bypass surgery.
The 62-year-old is expected to have the operation later this week after being taken ill on Saturday, and it is understood he will need two months' complete rest afterwards, ruling him out of a crucial part of the Barclays Premier League run-in.
While Kinnear's well-being is obviously paramount, his health problems have brought further disruption to a campaign which has pinballed from one setback to another and remains precariously balanced.
Assistants Chris Hughton and Colin Calderwood will take charge of team affairs, and owner Mike Ashley will hope the weekend's 3-2 Barclays Premier League win at West Brom heralded the start of a fightback with relegation still an awful possibility.
The Magpies are yet to comment on the news, but managing director Derek Llambias due to visit the former Wimbledon, Luton and Nottingham Forest boss in hospital once again today.
Kinnear, who suffered a heart attack almost 10 years ago, complained of feeling unwell at the team hotel in the midlands on Saturday morning.
His raised blood pressure was of sufficient concern to the club's medical staff to take him to hospital, and although initial checks confirmed there was no immediate emergency, he was admitted for further observation.
However, after seeing a cardiologist in recent days, he was informed of the diagnosis and remedy, and will have little choice but to put his plans for a swift return to the dug-out on hold.
Kinnear was initially appointed interim manager by owner Mike Ashley in September following Kevin Keegan's shock exit, and after a promising start - he lost only two of his first 12 games in charge - he was given the job until the end of the season.
However, a run of eight matches without a win, six of them in the league, and a return of just two points from a possible 18, saw the Magpies slip deep into relegation trouble before Saturday's victory over the bottom-of-the-table Baggies slightly eased their fears.
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