A fog of darkness slowly swallowed the sun. In Pride Park, thousands of home fans left against the backdrop of a spectacle far more suited to the rampant away crowd.
Derby County tried hard to find an extra gear - and the goal that usually comes with extraneous effort but failed to account for the desperation that can follow - as dribbles fail on the flank and catapulted passes fall into the palms of a happy goalkeeper.
As snorting tendrils of vapour flushed from an exhausted Jack Marriott, chasing another failed attack, Axel Tuanzebe stepped calmly over the ball, nursing it to the corner flag. Stabbing his shoulders right, he feinted once more to the left. Marriott could only continue his press, fully in thrall to the movement of Axel, and the ball. It would be all too easy for Tuanzebe to stop still and hold court over the ball for the rest of the game, but in dragging Derby to the corner, he created space for his goalkeeper to receive the ball. Tuanzebe calmly passed, and Marriott followed across the deserted back-line wondering what on earth he had to do to do anything at all.
It’s a rare thing that Aston Villa have seemingly happened upon. A player who, for little cost, is better than what they had last season, and may just be better than what they have right now. To be better than John Terry - and to be pushing James Chester for that honour this season? That is incredible, and it beggars belief that Tuanzebe was forced out-wide to make room for Mile Jedinak earlier this season.
What’s more odd, is that amongst all the talent in Villa’s squad - from James Chester to Conor Hourihane to Tammy Abraham, to John McGinn and Jack Grealish - that it is Tuanzebe who is pushing John McGinn as players who seem to be stealing gifts from the gods this season.
Villa seemed quite lucky to hold onto James Chester this season, after financial troubles where made an issue. Chester, no poor player in his own right, has stood for a while as the only stable presence in a rocky defence. Even Terry last season came with some worries - and not all were ironed out over the course of a final footballing season. Now, he is joined by someone who is growing with importance and quality each and every game.