Sheffield Wednesday and Middlesbrough had brief surges of confidence but there was no disguising it – these two sides are as poor as the grim Championship table suggests.
And over the course of the 90 minutes they were as bad as each other, reduced to a 1-1 draw which doubled both their points tallies but did neither much good.
At least Middlesbrough's Michael Carrick who, like his opposite number Xisco Munoz, will come under increasing scrutiny the longer his side produces performances like this, could take some satisfaction from turning the tide with a good substitution and some sound half-time advice, but not for long enough to conjure a first win of the season.
Ironic cheers rang around the old place when Wednesday's Pol Valentin had a shot after seven minutes. It was not difficult for Seny Dieng to deal with but still, this was progress.
"We've had a shot," sang home fans deprived of one in Saturday's defeat to Ipswich Town. It was the first minute of the second half before the away fans could sing that – and of course they did.
Even the protest against owner Dejphon Chansiri 15 minutes in was a bit disappointing, only about 30 thrown into the two corners at the Leppings Lane end.
By the end of the first half it was the Middlesbrough fans who were making their own entertainment as their side laboured against a side whose 5-4-1 formation did not exactly scream ambition, ole-ing a couple of consecutive passes after so many simple balls had been overhit.
But when your confidence is built on sand, as Wednesday's was, it does not take much at all to wash it away.
The shot in the arm from Anthony Musaba's goal was flushed out of their system when a half-time substitution made Boro look like a football team. Predictably, the hosts conceded from a corner.
But their self-belief was only fleeting too, unable to capitalise on Darragh Lenihan's goal before they returned to type.
Still, a point was more than even the most optimistic away fans would have seen coming when they booed their players off at half-time.
When the Owls realised that for the quality on the team-sheet – admittedly well spread out – the Teessiders posed next to no threat on the grass, they became emboldened.
Valentin followed his first shot with another dragged wide a few minutes later and put the wing in wing-back at times. It was no surprise his marker, Lukas Engel, did not reappear for the second half.
After 38 minutes the Owls worked the ball from left to right and Di'Shon Bernard burst out of the back three onto a Valentin pass. After shrugging off Josh Coburn's weak attempt to track him, he picked out recently-introduced substitute Musaba, unmarked eight yards out, to finish.
It took 27 minutes for a decent Boro move, Hayden Hackney finding Riley McGree who played in Coburn. Sammy Silvera’s shot was smothered by Akin Famewo.
Although Isaiah Jones was booked for a foul within three minutes of coming on, his introduction lifted Boro. Silvera had a shot inside the first minute of the half and Devis Vaquez soon had to sprint off his line to stop him making something of a long ball over the top.
Jones won the 54th-minute corner Boro equalised from, Lenihan hooking Lewis O'Brien's delivery in off the crossbar.
Wednesday were all over the place from another, Vasquez finding himself in no man's land. It led to one more, which Matt Crooks put in, only for the former Rotherham United man to be flagged offside.
Coburn outmuscled Momo Diaby and shot wide, although the centre-back redeemed himself with a solid block tackle when Hackney glided past two odf his team-mates in the penalty area.
Munoz had thrown on all five substitutes by the 68th minute in an attempt to wrestle back the initiative.
But Boro's confidence blew itself out and soon we were back to two bald men fighting over a comb – Silvera sloppily offside, Famewo ballooning a cross miles off, Crooks' shot at the other end not much more accurate. As the Owls had the chance to break in stoppage time, Tyreeq Bakinson ran the ball over the touchline under no pressure.
Wednesday had a chance to win it in the 90th minute, two of their substitutes combining as Lee Gregory laid the ball back for George Byers, only for the midfielder to curl wide.
Leeds United loanee Sam Greenwood – a set-piece specialist – was presented with a dangerous-placed free-kick but fittingly used the last kick of the game to boot the ball into the empty seats.
It was not a game either deserved to win but both desperately need three points to see if it can do anything more lasting for their belief.
Sheffield Wednesday: Vasquez; Valentín, Bernard, Diaby, Famewo, Delgado (Palmer 68); Buckley (Bakinson 68), Hendrick (Byers 59), Bannan, Windass (Musaba 35); Fletcher (Gregory 59). Unused substitutes: Dawson, Paterson, Smith, Gassama.
Middlesbrough: Dieng; van den Berg, Fry, Lenihan, Engel (Jones 46); Hackney, O'Brien; Silvera (Rogers 90), McGree (Greenwood 68), Crooks; Coburn. Unused substitutes: Smith, Barlaser, Lath, Howson, McNair, Glover.
Referee: D Webb (County Durham).