They simply couldn't, could they? Having waited until Matchday 17 for their first Bundesliga victory of the season, Cologne have since made it three wins in-a-row and as unlikely as it seemed just a few weeks ago, top-flight survival might just be attainable.
What began with a pre-Christmas gift to their fans in the form of a 1-0 triumph against Wolfsburg on 16 December culminated in Saturday's 2-0 success at fellow relegation strugglers HSV. Sandwiched in between was a dramatic, last-second Rheinderby victory against Borussia Mönchengladbach in which new signing Simon Terodde proved the hero. The former Stuttgart striker was at it again at the Volksparkstadion at the weekend, netting both goals to send the away supporters home with renewed hope.
Watch: Simon Terodde scored a last-gasp Rhein-Derby winner on MD18!
"We fought passionately but also had a bit of luck," coach Stefan Ruthenbeck said after a game in which his side sustained, and survived, significant pressure. "We scored the goals at the right moments but we are not euphoric, we still haven't achieved anything," the man brought in to replace Peter Stöger at the beginning of the month, added.
Ruthenbeck's reservations are understandable. This is still the team that lost 13 of their first 16 Bundesliga games of 2017/18, after all. But there is no doubt that a change has been underway since the arrival of the 45-year-old tactician, both in terms of results and fortune. Recently added key component Terodde - who returned to the club from Stuttgart in the current transfer window - has shared the limelight of late with Timo Horn, the custodian once again proving his immense value with yet more superb saves on Saturday.
"Timo Horn gives absolutely everything, he's really great; I've never had the privilege of coaching such a goalkeeper," Ruthenbeck said of his 24-year-old shot stopper. Horn had to be alert right from the off at the Volksparkstadion, denying Andre Hahn before later pulling off a superb double save to thwart Filip Kostic.
"It was really intense, Hamburg put a lot of pressure on us in the early stages," Terodde recalled. "We managed to edge in front in that time and an an important stage of the game we doubled our lead. Cologne can celebrate today but of course we want to further improve," the double goalscorer added.
A first successive treble triumph in the Bundesliga since 2011 has brought the basement side to within three points of Hamburg, in 17th, while Werder Bremen are next, four points in the distance and occupying the relegation play-off place.
After witnessing their team's latest victory, the Billy-Goats' faithful who travelled to Hamburg could be heard chanting, "Der FC Köln ist wieder da“ or "Cologne are back again." Their elation is understandable, given the team's toils this season, but as their goalscoring hero Terodde warned, "We mustn't forget that Hamburg are occupying a better position." However, having waited for so long to enjoy some Bundesliga cheer, the striker offered a smile before saying, "We can breathe again, for now. Cologne are back." Augsburg beware on Matchday 20.