Albion 0, Bournemouth 5

There is no getting away from it, Cardiff's visit to the Amex on Tuesday night is the biggest game Albion have faced in the Premier League.

Win and they will almost certainly survive. Draw and they will still be in a strong position to stay up. The implications of another defeat do not bear thinking about.

The momentum would be with Cardiff and, with trips to Tottenham and Arsenal to come, together with Manchester City at home on the final day, there would be a real danger of Albion's stay not lasting beyond two seasons.

It is probably just as well there is not much time to dwell on the horror of the heaviest defeat at the Amex, approaching the climax of the club's eighth campaign at the stadium.

Nor is it a moment to contemplate what may or may not happen during the summer. The only thing that matters right now is one match, one result.

How has it come to this? We should really not be that surprised, because we have been lulled into a false sense of security.

Staying up last season felt like a triumph and was greeted as such.

Safety was secured in the 36th game by beating Manchester United and reaching 40 points. The Cardiff game will be Albion's 33rd and they are on 33 points.

Last time around, a memorable win against Arsenal in early March made survival appear a formality until it was followed by a slump.

Albion also had a memorable victory at Crystal Palace early last month, now a slump. So why does a similar season feel so much worse than the last?

There is no divine right for any club to improve year on year, especially not one in the lower half of the Premier League.

There is more depth to Albion's squad, no discernible difference in the quality of the starting eleven.

Add to the equation the long absences of Pascal Gross and Jose Izquierdo - two such influential contributors last season - and a flattering hat-trick of 1-0 wins in October and you have that false sense of security.

Albion are what they are and about where they should be with the squad they have, relying on a 35-year-old for their goals. Survival really ought to be regarded as a triumph again but it will not be - not now.

Is Chris Hughton's switch to 4-3-3 in December to blame? Not entirely.

There were not many complaints about it when four points were taken from Arsenal and Everton at home over Christmas, or when Albion should have won at West Ham and Fulham, ran Liverpool and Manchester United close.

It has, however, played a part in the deterioration at home. One league win this year, against relegated Huddersfield, defeats by Burnley, Southampton and Bournemouth.

There has often been too much of a gap between the midfielders and central striker, on this occasion an out-of-sorts Florin Andone. No link man in the absence of Gross in the No.10 role, rather than as an orthodox midfielder.

Albion actually performed with some promise for half-an-hour against Bournemouth until running out of ideas as soon as they approached the final third.

The Argus:

Then Dan Gosling finished off a short passing move involving several players, without any pressure on the ball at any stage, and it was all downhill from there.

The four second half goals by Ryan Fraser, David Brookes, Callum Wilson and substitute Junior Stanislas all stemmed from conceding possession cheaply and Bournemouth countering ruthlessly.

Three of them followed a reckless red card for Anthony Knockaert for an awful tackle on Adam Smith, late and dangerous, as the full-back ran the ball out of his own area after intercepting Jurgen Locadia's cross.

The Argus: It was irresponsible from the Frenchman, who has the capacity to thrill and infuriate in equal measure, and played a part in the scale of the defeat.

The day before, he collected the goal of the month award for his spectacular winner at Palace. The week before, he was man-of-the-match against Manchester City at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final.

The trouble is Hughton cannot rely on Knockaert to keep his head when things are not going his and the team's way, as was also the case at Everton last season where he saw red for a jump tackle on Leighton Baines.

Hughton said: "We were obviously in a good place. Our performances perhaps weren't brilliant but we had picked up good results, particularly away at Palace.

"The performance in the Huddersfield game still wasn't a brilliant performance but we got the points we needed.

"But you always know it's going to be difficult, particularly because of the league we are playing in. This is still a level of club that needs to be fighting in every game.

"I was hoping and didn’t think we would be scrapping as much as we are having to scrap now. And I certainly didn't see the performance and the scoreline.

"However big we thought Cardiff was, it's become bigger. That I am sure of. But whether it's the biggest game since I've been here, I don't know."

We do know Albion cannot afford to lose it.