Newcastle Falcons bank on Gary Gold's Midas touch

When Gary Gold walked through the doors at Kingston Park in mid-January, Premiership survival for Newcastle Falcons looked like a case of 'Mission: Impossible'.

The 44-year-old took over a side nine points adrift in the table, and with just two wins in 16 top-flight games.

However without a Hollywood budget, the former South Africa coach has reversed the slump, whittling down a nine-point deficit to just four with one game to play.

"Gary's made a fantastic influence among the squad," captain James Hudson told BBC Newcastle.

"The two things we needed were direction and clarity, in terms of how he expected us to perform.

"He came in and defined what the role of the coaches were, the roles of the players and gave us direction."

In true cliffhanger fashion, that final game pitches the Falcons in a relegation shoot-out with Wasps - and regardless of the permutations - 'The Great Escape' remains a realistic possibility.

"It comes down to this game, we're the underdogs but we understand what we have to do," Hudson added.

"We're part of this game so it's in our hands, we're ultimately in control of this game.

"We've worked very hard to get ourselves in a position where we've got an opportunity."

For former London Irish coach Gold, battling for survival is in stark contrast to his achievements with South Africa but the return to the Premiership has been an enjoyable one.

"I've been involved in coaching against the British and Irish Lions, and in 2009 when I was with the Springboks we were lucky enough to get to number one in the world, but this is up there," Gold said.

"It's an achievement of the human spirit, a group of guys who nobody gave a chance to and it's the essence of why we love rugby.

"It's what is possible if you get a unified cause and stick to it."

Struggling at the wrong end of the division is something Newcastle have become accustomed to in recent seasons - with the last six ending with the club in the bottom four places.

Last year's escape came on the final day and in the final moments, as an already-defeated Newcastle side were handed a reprieve by Leeds' second-half collapse at Northampton.

In contrast Wasps have been four-times Premiership champions, twice won the Heineken Cup, and have never finished lower than ninth until this term.

"The last few years we've been involved at the crunch-time situation down the bottom end of the table," top-scoring fly-half Jimmy Gopperth said.

"We've learnt a lot of lessons from last year, and I suppose it's how to deal with the pressure because it's a different type of pressure.

"We're not looking over our shoulder, but it's a massive challenge, and we're looking forward to it."

Throughout his spell in charge, Gold has refused to speak of grand achievements, and the same applies for Saturday's trip to Adams Park.

"The mindset is along the lines of improving week-in and week-out, and we have been improving, as that's how we've been able to go toe to toe, and beat the other teams in the Premiership," he said.

"The belief is that we've done it in patches against the best teams, and it's paid dividends but we need to do that more regularly.

"It's more of a pressure situation this weekend but we're in with a chance, and there was a strong possibility through no fault of our own that we may have been relegated."