Having recorded some good results that indicated promotion was on the cards, Darlington have just lost at Leyton Orient and are about to win only two of the final 11 games of the season, a run that will knock aspirations of moving up a division way off course.

The disastrous form is to prove the downfall of David Hodgson's side.

Confidence is knocked, key matches are blown and the season is to end in disaster with the eventual effect of the Brisbane Road debacle born out in a hugely disappointing play-off final.

Soon afterwards the star names are replaced by non-entities and so begins a very bleak period, almost ending in the club's death.

That was the situation five years ago at exactly this stage of the season but although most of the faces have changed Quakers are threatening to replicate the same hara-kiri with their promotion run-in of 2004/05.

Following the Jekyll of last Tuesday's win over Swansea, Saturday's Hyde pushed Darlington to eighth, one point outside the play-offs but, having played two more games than seventh-placed Northampton, Quakers' destiny is now out of their hands.

Five years ago at this stage Darlington had just won six consecutive games and were sitting in the automatic promotion places so their future really did lie in their own hands.

But the 35th league game of 1999/00, like the current campaign, was a trip to Brisbane Road and it proved to be the catalyst in Quakers' downfall.

A controversial goal in the last minute was enough to condemn Darlington to a defeat from which they never recovered.

Until then an automatic promotion spot was on the cards, the play-offs merely an insurance policy.

Five years on, most of the players have changed, Craig Liddle, Neil Wainwright and Hodgson are the only figures still around who were at the club then, but this season, thanks to the fluctuating form, the play-offs are all Darlington have ever been in contention for.

Given Quakers' so-called star names, labelled the 'The Galacticos' by some, it's been a disappointment to supporters who saw players from similar backgrounds enjoy a much better season five years ago when Darlington reached the play-off final, something that captain Neil Maddison is desperate to see repeated.

Despite being battered by Dave Hunt's vicious flailing elbow in the first-half - leaving the 35-year-old with a badly-swollen cheekbone, something the Orient player later apologised for - Maddison was the visiting team's best player on Saturday, but he knows the standards of everybody must rise.

Clyde Wijnhard was substituted for Craig Russell in the first-half but he was only one of several under achieving and Maddison said: "I won promotion with Middlesbrough.

"Going up is a great feeling and I'm always stressing that we could do it too.

"We could have a great day out at the Millennium Stadium and get promoted.

"I might not have long left as a player so I want to go to Cardiff in the play-offs."

But promotions dreams will be forgotten if there are many more performances of the ilk seen at Orient - a game in which the opposition goalkeeper, Lee Harrison, didn't have a save to make.

On the first day of the 1998/99 season Harrison single-handedly staved off Darlington in a Barnet side that somehow stole a 2-0 win at Feethams, but the only thing he had to stave off on Saturday was boredom as he spent long periods doing nothing.

Referring to Russell's shot that was deflected for a corner Alan White, Orient's Darlington-born defender said: "They only had one effort on target and Lee said he loves games like that - he didn't have a save to make and only had to come for two crosses!"

Although Russell's blocked shot came in the first half, shortly after replacing the bemused Wijnhard, it was in the opening 45 minutes that Darlington were at their worst.

They couldn't keep possession, couldn't create chances and looked like conceding every time Orient went forward, particularly down Darlington's left.

When Quakers switched from 3-5-2 to 4-4-2 after 63 minutes, they steadily improved, gaining more possession with Bobby Petta looking like providing an unlikely equaliser.

But scraping a point against a team that had won only three of their previous 17 matches would have been little to boast about.

After beating Swansea last week, losing the next game was in keeping with the stop-start nature of Darlington's season that has continually seen contrasting results and performances.

The only thing consistent has been the inconsistency.

Saturday's first half performance was about as bad as it's been and if that's all that a team featuring some high-profile players with big reputations can manage, then Darlington will surely waste their promotion chance.

Not only that, few at Brisbane Road and those present at the other ugly displays this season would say they deserved it anyway.

Darlington only had themselves to blame for failure in 99/00 and they are threatening a repeat.

However, in the midst of the doom and gloom that inevitably follows such results, it shouldn't be forgotten that Quakers are still only just outside the play-offs and have proven their bouncebackability on several occasions this season.

This time, against Boston on Saturday, they are going to have to do it without the suspended Wijnhard and Alun Armstrong - if nothing else the game will demonstrate just how vital, or otherwise, those two are