CALL it a reprieve or a stay of execution but Dragons coach Paul McGregor has survived the axe despite the club board calling a snap meeting to consider his future on Tuesday morning.
McGregor himself accepted his sacking may have been looming following Monday's 22-2 loss to fellow strugglers Canterbury that left his languishing at the bottom of the ladder, the only side without a win after four rounds.
McGregor fronted up to the tough questions in the aftermath to the defeat, stating he wouldn't be quitting off his own bat, leaving the ball in the board's court.
It appeared something, or someone, had to give but Dragons chairman Andrew Gordon said the club will continue to back its coach.
"Although the board acknowledges the club's performances so far throughout 2020 have been unacceptable; we will continue to support Paul, his staff and the team through these tough times," Gordon said.
"We are committed to Paul as coach of the St George Illawarra Dragons and look forward to seeing him right the wrongs of the opening month of the current campaign.
"We are a club that stands by our people when under pressure. This is a time for loyalty, strength and commitment from the players, coach, board and staff to improve."
The board was due to meet next week, with McGregor's future a likely topic of conversation, but brought discussions forward following Monday's display.
It was expected to be the death knell, with assistant coach Dean Young tipped to step in as interim head coach - the same circumstances in which McGregor first took the role in 2014.
Assistant coach Shane Flanagan is not an option, with ARLC chairman Peter V'landys ruling out any relaxation of the ban keeping the former Sharks coach out of a head-coaching role until the end 2021.
The reprieve surprised many, and will no doubt infuriate the club's fans. The club has been loath to pay out the remainder of McGregor's deal, which expires at the end of next season and does not contain any provisions for early removal.
It certainly won't see an end to people calling for his head, with the 52-year-old admitting the constant chatter around his position does have an impact on the club.
"There's conversation around it every day which doesn't help your team, doesn't help your players, doesn't help the club, doesn't help the fans and the sponsors," he said following Monday's loss.
"If that decision's made, I'll wear it. I'll be disappointed obviously, but I understand the situation. I've certainly got the backing of the players and the staff.
"I've got confidence and belief in my team, at the moment I think they've lost a fair bit of it in themselves. I know how hard they work through the week, we're just not going out and playing the way we're doing things [at training]."
The Dragons remain desperately out of form but there is hope of a turnaround in their next two clashes against fellow strugglers the Sharks and Titans - though the latter broke through for their first win on Sunday.
Whether Tuesday's development secures McGregor's long-term future remains to be seen, with Wayne Bennett repeatedly linked to a return to the club with which he hoisted the 2010 trophy.
Longtime Roosters assistant coach Craig Fitzgibbon and another former Dragon in Melbourne assistant Jason Ryles had been touted as potential long-term replacements if the club did move on McGregor.
Former Broncos and Panthers coach Anthony Griffin would also be a candidate as would other former Dragons Trent Barrett and Nathan Brown.