At least Derek Adams managed to dredge up a dewdrop of antagonism.
Admittedly it was a tough ask, yet the ever-acrimonious Plymouth boss ensured the embers continued to glow. Dying, undoubtedly, but still displaying faint life.
But it represented nothing more than a dead man’s twitch as this once-fierce modern-day rivalry grows dormant.
‘I have been here three years now and Portsmouth have only finished above me once in my three years at the football club and that was the last game of the season,’ he told BBC Devon Sport.
‘So they can have their day today and rightly so, they have won 3-0, they are in buoyant mood, but just have got to remember we have finished above them twice out of three seasons.’
True, yet a curious line of defence to roll out following a 3-0 humbling which strengthens the gravitational pull of League Two for the rock-bottom Pilgrims.
These have been lower-league seasons when the clubs established themselves as bitter adversaries, scrapping in tightly-fought contests often decided by one goal.
But no more.
A comfortable 3-0 triumph for Kenny Jackett’s men will testify to that, as the Blues maintain an outstanding start to the campaign.
On 82 minutes, the travelling Plymouth faithful chanted ‘We’ve had a shot’, a song dripping in sarcasm.
Yet such honesty continues to elude their manager when reflecting upon matches, delivering words designed to hoodwink and distract rather than respectfully hand over credit.
On Saturday a chasm had developed between the feuding clubs – to those present it was unmistakable. The dynamic is evolving.
The wretched marketing-spawned buzzword of Dockyard Derby usually bristles many Blues followers upon its every utterance, yet had barely been cursed in the build-up to Saturday’s encounter.
Meanwhile, the Pilgrims returned unsold Milton End tickets as their supporters numbered 1,226 – a drop of 34 per cent from their previous Fratton Park visit.
Derbies clearly aren’t what they used to be, manufactured or otherwise.
Certainly Gareth Evans, a stalwart of all nine appearances against Derek Adams’ men since August 2015, will not have faced weaker Plymouth opposition.
As a consequence, Saturday’s scoreline was the largest win for either side since the Pilgrims triumphed 3-0 at Home Park in November 2014. Think Nick Awford and Jack Whatmough in midfield.
Finally, since that televised occasion, Pompey were able to comfortably demonstrate a class above. Early indications dare to suggest they have now embarked on a different course to their port foes.
And while Adams may lead the playground squabbling, pointing at the past to deflect a harrowing defeat, the truth is his side no longer offer the force it once possessed.
In the meantime, the club which last season finished one place and two points behind them have cranked up promotion aspirations, using Saturday’s impressive Fratton Park outcome to maintain that climb.
Adams may grasp at three penalty decisions as examples of breathtaking injustice, of which two aren’t even remembered, yet the fact remains Kenny Jackett’s side were excellent and worthy winners.
From the moment Ronan Curtis finished Jamal Lowe’s right-wing cross, the result was never in doubt.
Even before that 22nd-minute breakthrough the Blues were dominant, counter attacking with pace and in numbers to drive back the Plymouth bodies.
Except for a spell of possession 10 minutes before half-time and Graham Carey’s late shot against the outside of the post, the visitors struggled for a foothold against relentless Pompey.
At the heart of the impressive display was Curtis, the ever-confident Irish recruit who continues to rip up League One during this maiden campaign.
Adams’ men couldn’t handle his pace, direct nature, phenomenal work-rate and, of course, eye for goal. Similarly impressive is the consistency of the winger, whose high levels refuse to dip.
The Fratton faithful have swiftly taken Curtis to their hearts, while his willingness to sign young supporters’ autographs after coming off the pitch to delay the return to the changing room has not gone unnoticed.
His two goals against Plymouth took the tally to five in six league games, while he laid on the second for Jamal Lowe with a sumptuous cross from the left.
On this occasion he overshadowed Lowe, another outstanding attacking player in Pompey ranks, who has four league goals and is continuing to develop at a sensational pace.
Despite the arrival of Andre Green on loan from Aston Villa, Jackett had elected to name the same side for a fourth-successive game.
That kept Curtis and Lowe locked into place, while skipper Evans operated in between both in the attacking three.
Evans may not have scored yet was outstanding, involved in two of the goal-getting moves and continuing to prove relevant despite the current loan influx of forward-thinking players.
His strong running and delivery were integral to Pompey’s countering style as they hunted in packs with speed and menace.
Meanwhile, Plymouth-born Joe Mason was ineligible, having not signed in time to feature in the clash with his boyhood heroes.
The deadlock was broken on 22 minutes, when Evans slotted in Lowe down the right, With keeper Matt Macey arriving his way, Lowe squeezed a square pass to his left.
Curtis did the rest with a first-time finish in front of the Milton End.
On 63 minutes, Curtis returned the favour with a deep right-footed cross from the left which found Lowe ghosting in at the far post to head home from close range.
The scoreline was wrapped up on 69 minutes when Evans clipped through a pass which the Irishman galloped after, outmuscling Gary Sawyer in the process.
Then followed a wonderful left-footed finish from an improbable angle.
An impressive transfer window and strong start to the season has created a buzz around Fratton Park.
The future excites, while Adams finds solace in the past.