The script was written for returning hero Scott Allan to inspire Pompey to a rare victory at Bramall Lane.
Instead, though, it was Lubomir Michalik who would have the crucial say in the outcome of last night’s match at Bramall Lane.
As Sheffield United’s Chris Porter chased the ball down the right channel midway through the second half, it appeared as if the covering defender was in control of the situation.
Except, a mistimed challenge only succeeded in gifting the home side a penalty – and ultimately the match.
Harsh on Pompey, considering an impressive away performance at the unbeaten Blades.
And certainly unfortunate on the outstanding Allan, who was head and shoulders about the rest of the players on show during the televised encounter.
Such was the swiftness of his Blues return, a shirt bearing his name had to be brought from Fratton Park on the day of the match.
Nonetheless, it was a triumph of a debut from the West Bromwich Albion midfielder, who was marking his second loan spell with the club.
Playing a free role behind lone striker Izale McLeod, his contribution was a majestic display in the opening 45 minutes.
United couldn’t even foul him, let alone blunt his effectiveness.
With his quick feet, speed of thought and immense vision, this was the Allan of old, the player who chalked up 15 games in an eye-catching time at Fratton Park at the end of last season.
Thankfully, it was not the MK Dons employee who barely started a match during a month’s loan spell which only recently ended.
Considering Pompey left Bramall Lane empty-handed, it can be deemed inappropriate by some why Allan should be sung about in such glowing terms.
But in truth, regardless of the result, he was the shining light.
Certainly providing enough to suggest he can once again be a massive influence on the south coast.
He’s not the striker Michael Appleton wanted, granted.
Nevertheless, Allan has the capacity to be a true catalyst during his initial one-month stay.
As it was, Michalik erred in his tackle and Nick Blackman stepped up in the 65th minute to settle matters for the hosts.
And so it maintains a miserable record on Sheffield United soil for Pompey – a winless league run that stretches back to 1955.
Allan was granted an instant debut following his loan move from the Hawthorns.
He was named in Appleton’s Pompey starting line-up in a free role just behind front man McLeod.
Effectively, he replaced skipper Brian Howard, who missed out on a return to his former club through a one-match suspension.
There was also a recall for Mustapha Dumbuya, who returned to his accustomed right-back role in place of Lee Williamson.
That allowed Williamson to move into the centre of midfield against the club who he starred for last term.
Meanwhile, Gabor Gyepes was made captain in the absence of Howard.
As for ex-Blues striker Dave Kitson, he was robbed of the chance of lining up against the club he left over the summer by a thigh injury.
When the match got under way, Pompey suffered a scare straight from kick-off when Blackman forced his way into the box, only to see his shot saved by the legs of Mikkel Andersen.
In the sixth minute, a scramble inside the Blues penalty area resulted in Carl Dickinson blocking a shot on the line amid a bright start for the hosts.
It was a piece of true artistry from Akos Buzsaky which conjured up Pompey’s first attempt on goal in the 10th minute.
There seemed little danger when the Hungarian picked up the ball 40 yards out but he unleashed a ferocious right-footed effort.
The shot cannoned off the crossbar, with keeper George Long beaten – only for an offside flag against McLeod to prevent anyone from capitalising on the follow-up.
Pompey settled down to play some crisp, bright football, with Allan seemingly at the heart of everything.
Then, on 15 minutes, Michalik brought down Porter just outside the box after a defensive mix-up but it came to nothing for United.
A magnificent ball down the middle from Allan picked out McLeod’s run across the box.
He found himself clean through but was again ruled offside.
In the 23rd minute, a superb cross from the right by Tony McMahon was met with a towering header from Porter which flashed narrowly past Andersen’s far post.
It was proving to be a gripping encounter and when Jon Harley’s block tackle allowed the ball to fall into the path of Allan inside his own half, he embarked on a scintillating run.
The Scot surged into the Blades’ penalty area, despite being heavily outnumbered, and flashed a shot across the face of goal.
As half-time approached, a tremendous cross from Kevin McDonald from the right was just nicked off the head of Porter by Michalik in a timely interception.
Within minutes of the second half starting, Long clawed away Gyepes’ header from Buzsaky’s corner through pure instinct at point-blank range.
The match was maintaining its high tempo and Harry Maguire fizzed a shot narrowly over the bar when he was criminally allowed to take a touch and turn inside the Pompey box.
Dickinson received the first booking of the match in the 59th minute with a thunderous challenge from behind on Ryan Flynn, going through the man before taking the ball. The deadlock was broken, though, on 65 minutes when Michalik mistimed a challenge on Porter inside the box.
The linesman had no hesitation in giving the penalty and Blackman calmly slotted home to give United the lead.
Moments later a superb pass from Allan picked out Harley’s run through the middle but McMahon came across with a magnificent tackle to clear the danger.
Pompey continued to press, yet the chances dried up for both sides as the game faded to a conclusion.
A losing return for Allan then but enough to suggest there will be winning times around the corner if he maintains such form.