On a night when one quarterback was knocked rudely from his pedestal while his rival emerged from purgatory, a harsh form of reality came to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
The undefeated Ticats, the story of the early Canadian Football League season, were brought back to reality 34-6 by the Toronto Argonauts before a near-capacity Ivor Wynne Stadium crowd of 27,664 last night.
And en route to the first defeat of what has been developing into a Cinderella season, Hamilton's loss of quarterback Danny McManus underscored the fickleness of the football fates.
Coming into the game, McManus was astride the CFL passing statistics while Argonaut quarterback Damon Allen was coming under increasing heat for failing to inspire what had been a flaccid Argos attack.
Inside one game, fortunes were reversed.
McManus was knocked out of action with a concussion just into the second half. Allen was already in control.
McManus understudy Marcus Brady, secured by Hamilton in an early-season trade with the Argos, took over and showed some nifty running but wildly inconsistent passing.
Rookie head coach Greg Marshall, absorbed a shot of reality.
"You have to give them credit; they made plays and we didn't," the former Western Mustang said.
"We tied to make the big play early and tonight it just wasn't there."
That had been Ticats' forte in three straight wins. The intense Marshall was even-tempered after the loss, aware that the early season excitement couldn't last.
Somebody asked about a smattering of fans booing.
"Maybe I was booing a bit, too," he responded with a chuckle.
Marshall had it right in the lead-up to the game, always a big one when the Argos are in town, even bigger now during what is an obvious revival of fan interest in the Ambitious City.
"I don't think anyone is the league thinks it's going to last long," the rookie CFL coach said of the Argos' weak start.
"You can't judge what their identity will be based on three games."
An offensive popgun until last night, the Argos' earlier performances were leading to growing murmurs that it had all passed veteran quarterback Allen, 40, by.
Statistics didn't contradict that notion. After three games, the 1-2 Argos hadn't scored in 10 quarters of football and had amassed just 701 yards of offence.
Moreover, Allen ranked eighth in passers with just 578 yards and two majors.
All that changed last night.
"Wonderful, wonderful" is how Argos coach Pinball Clemons described Allen.
"He plays like a 30-year-old."
Toronto took a 19-3 lead into the locker room at halftime. It could have been worse for the Ticats.
Along with their propensity for making big plays, the visitors were the beneficiaries of what has become known as the Argo Bounce.
Allen established a plot line in a hurry, connecting with a strike just 2:21 into the game when he hit Tony Miles from a broken play for a 58-yard major.
Five minutes into the second quarter, Allen sneaked over himself from the Hamilton one.
While he started the game cutting off a piece of the Ticats here and there, Allen ended up dissecting the Hamilton secondary with surgical skill.
On the last play of the third quarter, he connected with Talbot for his second touchdown toss of the game and Talbot's first as a pro.
Bashir Levingston returned a punt 70 yards for the other Argo touchdown and the remaining points came from the toe of Noel Prefontaine, who booted a field goal and three singles.
Jamie Boreham kicked two field goals for Hamilton.
"It's a big win for us," said ex-Mustang Jude St. John of London.
"When you go into the season picked first and here we were last. But things are coming together."
As for Marshall, the game is gone, over and for use only as a lesson. "What's important now is we have a couple of games against tough opponents, Edmonton next week and then Montreal," he said, adding that he expects McManus to be back in action by then.