The wheels didn't come off for England all at once. It was more like the team bus picking up a series of punctures over the course of a steady climb towards an expected destination in the hills. When they dropped Kraigg Brathwaite in the first 20 minutes of the morning session, it felt pivotal; when they dropped Shai Hope in the final half hour, it was damning; when they dropped Jermaine Blackwood with six runs required and the shadows lengthening it was close to bathetic.
Against a team as low on confidence as West Indies, they could still hope to break the game open heading into the last session, induce a few nerves and spark a collapse. But it was England who looked the shakier by then. Joe Root held his head in his hands when Roston Chase edged James Anderson through a vacant first slip - the captain was the only man in the cordon and he was standing wide - and then threw himself for a catch that didn't carry off the very next ball.
Five runs from two outside-edges brought West Indies' target down to 82. They had started the day needing 317. In the next over, Chase nudged Stuart Broad towards backward point and Hope came haring down for the single only for Ben Stokes' wild shy to beat the fielder backing up and fly to the rope for overthrows. Root, picked out by the TV cameras, looked aghast but appeared to be urging his players to calm down. England strove in pursuit of wickets throughout the day but, as those moments summed up, they lacked precision in their execution.
Although a fifth-day crowd of more than 8000 had long fallen silent by the time Blackwood was merrily carving the last few runs under the glowing petals of Headingley's white rose floodlights, they had played their part as England's proverbial 12th man. But England seemingly needed 13 or 14 men to win against a suddenly inspired opponent. It was perhaps indicative of their messy all-round performance that the biggest ovation of the day - other than for the victorious West Indies - was for Mason Crane, the substitute fielder who took an outstanding catch to remove Chase and briefly reignite English hopes.
Anderson, who took five wickets in the first innings, began the day three short of 500 - and ended it three short. The plangent chorus of "Oh, Jimmy Jimmy" when England took the second new ball rang out more in hope than expectation.
England can have few complaints, given the degree to which West Indies had themselves bestowed favours in the field - over the course of both innings, they benefited to the tune of 238 runs through dropped catches; a figure which also doesn't account for Moeen Ali's no-ball reprieve (another 52). A mistake of their own then turned out to be the most costly of the lot: Alastair Cook's failure to hold a regulation edge off Brathwaite in the fourth over of the morning, when he had made 4.
The drop came off Broad, who was England's best bowler during the opening hour, and it set the tone. There was aggression and intent but some of it wayward - although Broad did remove Kieran Powell to a catch at fourth slip, his spell read 8-0-45-1 as Brathwaite made the most of his life. Broad also dropped Brathwaite on 29 but managed to spill it on to the stumps at the non-striker's end, a moment that ended Kyle Hope's innings and fleetingly suggested England might make it home despite their flaws.
When he returned during the afternoon, Broad's frustrations extended to sticking a boot into the pitch. A delivery on the pads allowed Brathwaite to glance four and take the third-wicket stand past 100 - Broad's angry scuff at the turf resulted in a word from the umpires. Rather than the fifth-day surface, it was England beginning to crack.
Soon after, with Brathwaite and Hope replicating their second-day steel, the crowd sensed that England were potentially in a fix. It started during a Broad over, with a half-full Headingley clapping him into the crease and continued with Ben Stokes hammering in during a spell from the other end. A top-edged hook against Stokes brought Brathwaite four - and possibly a sotto voce curse from the bowler - but still the partnership did not look like being broken.
"Come on, Jimmy!" yelled a lone voice, as he embarked on a third spell of the day - his second up the hill from the Football Stand after a brief salvo at the other end. It was from the Kirkstall Lane End that the wicket finally came, to a throaty roar, as Brathwaite fell five runs short of becoming the first man to score a century in both innings of a first-class match (not just a Test) at Headingley. Undaunted, Hope took up the mantle - and the record.
England came into the second Test playing down the suggestion that West Indies were there for the taking but confident, surely, of a fourth successive win as they continued to build for the Ashes. Instead, questions remain over the batting, most notably Tom Westley at No. 3, and possibly the wisdom of bringing back Chris Woakes having only played one other first-class game in 2017. If England have to pick their strongest XI for the decider at Lord's, it could well be argued that Toby Roland-Jones deserves to play on his home ground.
Moreover, Root's captaincy has taken a dent - not quite up there with David Gower's declaration at Lord's in 1984, at least in terms of sheer brutality, but one that will live in the memory for different reasons. Then again, when set against the turbulent history of Headingley, Yorkshire and England, when has the job ever been easy?