Chelsea have missed the deadline to complete the signing of Gary Cahill in time for their Barclays Premier League game against Sunderland.
The Blues were confident of wrapping up the deal by the end of the week but that had not happened before the midday cut-off for Cahill to be registered for the Stamford Bridge clash.
It remained to be seen whether the Bolton defender would complete what has been a protracted move later on Friday and become Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas' first January signing.
If not, Wanderers boss Owen Coyle has already confirmed Cahill would be in contention for his current employers' trip to Manchester United.
An additional 24-hour delay would not necessarily be a bad thing for Chelsea, with Cahill undoubtedly strengthening a Bolton side they will be hoping take points off United.
But the more time that passes without an announcement, the more doubt is cast over whether the parties have been able to agree personal terms.
It is now more than a fortnight since Bolton accepted a #7million bid from Chelsea for their prize asset, who was in the final six months of his contract.
Negotiations immediately hit a snag when Blues boss Andre Villas-Boas revealed club and player were "miles apart" in terms of Cahill's salary.
Reports claimed the England international was demanding #100,000 per week, #30,000 more than Chelsea were willing to pay as they seek to reduce their overall wage budget in the era of Financial Fair Play.
There were also suggestions in midweek a compromise figure of #80,000 had been agreed but Cahill trained with Bolton on Thursday morning and there have since been reports Blues chief executive Ron Gourlay had travelled to the north west for further talks.
Villas-Boas was confident of a positive outcome "this week" and refused to criticise Cahill or his representatives for the delay.
"It's part of negotiation," Villas-Boas said. "I'm sure all parties are protecting their interests and we'll reach an agreement."
With Alex frozen out of Chelsea's first-team squad, Villas-Boas will be hoping nothing happens to captain John Terry or David Luiz prior to Cahill's arrival.
Terry looks set to shake off problems with both knees to lead out his side but Branislav Ivanovic is still out with a hamstring strain.
A defensive injury crisis cost Chelsea dearly against Sunderland last season, when they were stunned 3-0 at home.
The Wearsiders look in even better shape under new manager Martin O'Neill, who has transformed them from relegation fodder to the form side in the Premier League since his appointment last month.
Villas-Boas said: "He's had the right impact and is one of the top managers in the game, with tremendous success here and in Scotland.
"The team were low in motivation and self-belief but they got themselves together to beat the leaders and inspire themselves.
"They can take anyone on, so they're more of a threat now because of that motivation, and Martin is doing such a great job."
O'Neill has insisted Sunderland will still be engaged in a fight for survival even if they beat Chelsea.
They head for the capital on the back of a promising revival since O'Neill replaced Steve Bruce as manager in December and having taken 13 points from a possible 18 and secured their place in the FA Cup fourth round.
That run has eased the Wearsiders into the top half of the table, although the Northern Irishman is adamant that he will continue to look over his shoulder.
He said: "Of course I am concerned, yes. If this was the final league table of the season, that becomes a different issue, but it is not.
"We could lose and we could drop six places in the league, so it's still very, very tight.
"What we have been able to do, we have been able to haul ourselves into a pack of teams that I am quite convinced wouldn't be looking in any other direction than over their shoulder.
"Chelsea will be a difficult game for us, exceptionally difficult. But we are going in with confidence and we will see.
"If we win the game, it's three extra points for us and if we do that there, that would be fantastic for us, and that's the way I would look at it.
"Similarly, if we are beaten in the game, I'm hoping that it wouldn't dent confidence so badly that we would fall apart."
O'Neill could be boosted by the return of striker Nicklas Bendtner from a knee injury while fellow frontman Fraizer Campbell was among the travelling party which left on Friday afternoon for the first time since suffering a second serious knee injury in August 2010.