Micheál Martin is close to banishing the dark cloud that has hung over him constantly since January 2011.
He is three party membership ballots away from ensuring that he will not become "the first ever Fianna Fáil leader never to have been Taoiseach", as was so often predicted.
It has been a decade of uphill battling for the Cork city TD, but he comes from fighting stock.
His late father, Paddy Martin, was an international boxer who once defeated a man who had gone 12 rounds with Muhammad Ali.
Fianna Fáil has been on the ropes for much of the nine and a half years of his leadership.
The former secondary school teacher, who will celebrate his 60th birthday this August, has been a TD since June 16, 1989, and identified as a potential Taoiseach for 25 years.
Bertie Ahern appointed Martin to the first front bench he picked in January 1995, and he remained a key Ahern lieutenant until Ahern was forced to resign in May 2008.
He remained a senior figure in the ill-starred government of Brian Cowen, who succeeded Ahern.
The Ahern-Martin relationship was not always cordial but it gave him huge cabinet experience.
He served as education minister (1997-2000); health minister (2000-2004); enterprise and trade minister (2004-2008); and foreign affairs minister (2008-2011).
Education was a natural fit, but health proved his most daunting job.
He commissioned more than 100 reports on various problems and embarked on difficult administrative changes, replacing the regional health boards with a more centralised HSE.
In the run-in to the May 2002 General Election, Martin pledged to end hospital queues inside two years - a promise he publicly recanted months after polling day. Ahern was not unhappy watching his colleague flounder.
Asked about an impending reshuffle in 2004, Ahern smiled when directly asked who would be the next health minister. "Micheál Martin - for the next three years," the then-Taoiseach said.
But Martin did score "a late goal" as health minister with the workplace smoking ban in spring 2004. It was jeered as literally "a smoke screen" to distract from other chronic problems. But it proved to be ahead of its time.
He got out of health when Ahern did a reshuffle in September 2004, moving to the happier sphere of enterprise.
Martin also showed some mettle in 2008. As controversy built around his boss, he was among a number of people who called on Ahern and frankly told him it was time to quit.
He continued as foreign affairs minister under Brian Cowen, and must take his share of the blame for the failure of the first EU Lisbon Treaty referendum in June 2008.
There were some happier stories with the release of Irish hostages in Africa and a successful re-run of the Lisbon vote in October 2009.
But things were spinning totally out of control for Cowen and his associates, including the Green Party duo of Eamon Ryan and John Gormley. That government's banking guarantee in October 2008 presaged a mighty economic crash and the arrival of the ECB-EU-IMF Troika in November 2010.
On January 19, 2011, Martin resigned from cabinet.
A week later he won a four-way party leadership election, defeating colleagues Éamon Ó Cuív, Brian Lenihan Jnr, and Mary Hanafin.
With Brian Cowen remaining as nominal Taoiseach, Micheál Martin led Fianna Fáil into its worst ever election.
While many long-time cabinet colleagues opted for retirement, he chose what had all the hallmarks of a political suicide mission.
On polling day, February 25, 2011, the party got 17pc - a preference lower than that achieved by the old Irish Parliamentary Party in their 1918 election wipeout.
Fianna Fáil had just 21 TDs, all male. After the tragic death of Brian Lenihan Jnr in June 2011, they had no Dublin TD. It is hard to imagine a worse start to a leadership term.
Martin and his few allies began a revival campaign, touring the country - with the many constituencies in which they had nobody being given extra attention. It was labouring work, which for long periods showed few results.
Opinion polls often showed Fianna Fáil to be not much better than the 17pc they got in 2011. His efforts to "modernise" the party by backing Taoiseach Enda Kenny's courageous efforts to change the abortion legislation were thwarted by his own colleagues.
In June 2013, he reluctantly had to concede "a free Dáil vote" on the issue. He faced similar reluctance in the May 2015 same-sex marriage debate. He had spats with deputy leader Ó Cuív and John McGuinness. Internal relations were not always good.
But he persisted and delivered an excellent local election result in May 2014, becoming the lead party with 25pc of the vote and 267 councillors. Martin's Fianna Fáil again followed that with another strong general election performance in February 2016 with 24pc of the vote and more than doubling the number of TDs to 44.
It looked like Martin had put a very battered Fianna Fáil vehicle back on the road. But he could not become Taoiseach - even rejecting an expected offer of rotating the job with Enda Kenny before the offer was made.
Fianna Fáil opted instead for the strange business of 'confidence and supply'.
For that, he took Opposition slings and arrows and periodic internal party unrest.
Still he kept his word rigorously and allowed the government to continue - albeit weak, and at times rudderless.
Big things were expected from Martin and Fianna Fáil in the February 8 General Election. Smart money was on him leading a Fianna Fáil-Green Party-Labour coalition.
But Micheál Martin had a very bad election and his persistent attacks on a surprisingly resurgent Sinn Féin served only to add to its stellar vote share.
However, in a very strange way he was saved by balkanised Dáil arithmetic, Fine Gael's refusal to treat with Sinn Féin, and a deal with the Greens.
It was rather like what happened to Enda Kenny in spring/summer of 2016 - terrible election but lucky parliamentary numbers.
Against the odds, 'Lazarus' Martin looks headed for the Taoiseach's office, after a 31-year battle at the coalface, the first Corkman to hold that office since Jack Lynch quit in 1979. He can be assured of a great welcome in the Munster capital where he has competed in the "constituency of death" in Cork South Central.
By a strange geographic coincidence, he is likely to be joined in cabinet from that same constituency, with Simon Coveney of Fine Gael and his own keen party rival Michael McGrath.
Much of his political success is due to the counsel and support by his wife, Mary, a keen student of the theory and practice of politics.
Micheál Martin is popular in Cork city, and is known for mixing socially without airs or graces.
He is a keen sports supporter and his son, Micheál A, is the goalkeeper on the Nemo Rangers side who are current Munster senior football champions.
He is a fluent Irish speaker and regular on TG4 and Raidió na Gaeltachta.
He has likely banished the notion that he will be the only Fianna Fáil leader never to have been Taoiseach.