ALL the permutations had been worked out before Mounties' game against the highly-fancied North Sydney in the NSW Cup at Mounties Sports Ground on Saturday.
The Black and Golds had to win the final-round game, then rely on a complicated series of results going their way to make the finals.
The one result no-one had factored in was a draw, and this was how it ended; an 18-all heartbreaker that left Mounties a point short of the finals on 29, ending their meritorious debut season in the bigger league.
What made it especially heartbreaking was that the Bears scored their equalising converted try in the 76th minute, and that after Mounties had led 12-0 at halftime and 18-4 early in the second half.
Curtis Johnston became Mounties' bug bear when he found space on the right edge and crossed in the corner.
The Bears had missed their three previous conversion attempts but this one hit the upright and bounced through.
How different had seemed the portents in the first half, and how long ago it seemed.
Especially when Eddy Elzbaidieh scored one of the individual tries of the season to open the scoring.
He found himself with the ball on halfway and surrounded by a wall of Bears players.
With options limited, he chipped-and-chased, regathered and outpaced the defence.
All was well, and it was even better when Sami Sauiluma hit a nice hole off a deft pass from Dave Farkas in the 32nd minute.
Sauiluma was ankle-tapped several metres out from the line, but got up and crossed and made it 12-0.
Mounties' defence was caught napping just a minute after the break but all was well again when Sauiluma broke the line and was pulled down centimetres short, before Scott Jones crashed over.
Then came the Bears' inexorable comeback and two tries in the last 10 minutes capped by Johnson's heartbreaker.
Best for Mounties were Paul Vaughan and Scott Jones up front, while Sauiluma and Darren Nicholls were impressive in the backline. Still, after Mounties' impressive debut season, the best should be yet to come.