There remains a ridge on which the "lilies" walk. Not a narrow one, not that, because the risk of falling is too low for that. One more win – and the culmination of a successful phase that has already lasted for two and a half seasons in the second division (157 points from the last 82 second division games) would be reached. The lead is so comfortable, the feeling so present, that it seems only a matter of time before the big party can begin.

At Hannover 96 this Sunday (13.30 p.m. in the F.A.Z. live ticker for the second Bundesliga and on Sky), the following Friday under floodlights after the home game against Magdeburg or really only on the last matchday in Fürth? Even the Darmstadt professionals cannot free themselves from the fact that it seems to be only a question of whether and no longer of when.

No trace of weak knees

Even if they steadfastly assert that they will "stick to our route" (Captain Fabian Holland) and work through the day's task without looking at the big picture, the tangible near goal. "I don't like the statement, 'it's going to be okay'," says goalkeeper Marcel Schuhen.

Is the last hurdle for a team that has been at the top of the table continuously and sometimes unchallenged since the twelfth matchday only of a psychological nature? It is not to be expected that the "Lilies" could get weak knees and fear of their own courage this season, given their style of play and consistency. The 0-3 home defeat against St. Pauli, synonymous with the first missed early chance of promotion, gave no indication that there would have been a loss of tension at SV 98.

The best defence, the strongest away record in the league and all the other advantages of the SVD should allow a victory at the aimless midfield club Hannover. Especially since more than 5000 travelling fans from southern Hesse are expected, who will make themselves heard in the arena of the 96ers. "We," says Holland, for whom it would be the second Bundesliga promotion in a Darmstadt jersey after 2015, "will do everything we can to fix the thing there."

However, hardly any players in the squad have the experience of contesting a season finale from a seemingly undisputed position of strength. One thing is clear: If it was ultimately only enough for third place in the relegation play-offs, it would be a bitter disappointment. However, it is also clear that, in view of the seven-point lead over the last three matchdays, it may not need to do much on its own, because it regulates the almost classic spring fatigue of Hamburger SV (in the event of its defeat in Regensburg at the same time, the Darmstadters would automatically reach their goal).

"We are driven by the hunt for victories and points"

"I don't want to know anything about the results in the other places. We want to do our thing," said coach Torsten Lieberknecht on Friday afternoon. And with footballing means and without expressions borrowed from tennis. "It's the biggest bullshit to talk about match points in football. We don't have match points, we kick for three points. That's why we don't think about such terms," says Lieberknecht. "We are driven by the hunt for victories and points."

19 wins after 31 matchdays are the record of a newly promoted team. A team that could not be considered urgently suspicious of promotion before the start of the season and then climbed into a fabulous season. It wasn't consistently brilliant, but consistently strong. And astonishingly crisis-proof.

In the first half of the season, the Lieberknecht team allowed themselves a phase in which they let themselves be snatched away from one or the other lead in the final minutes of the games - and then increased their unbeaten streak to 21. An emerging phase of weakness at the beginning of March (defeats one after the other in Heidenheim and Bielefeld) was answered by the SVD with a new series of successes.

The protagonists credibly report a pleasant domestic climate compared to the usual professional cut-throat competition in the industry. "In Darmstadt, we always succeed in creating a successful team chemistry," says captain Holland. "There was a very good atmosphere in the dressing room all year round. Training is really tough, but it's also fun."

The depressing injury misery in the squad at times this season will have helped to ensure that every player was not only verbally appreciated, but that everyone on the pitch really contributed to what was achieved. There it is now necessary to take the final step. The next and perhaps last stage of Darmstadt's summit assault: Hanover.