Before the game, virtually every conversation among the fans revolved around the manager: would Eddie be staying or going? And how would this affect the players on the day?
The answer to the second question soon became apparent, as the Cherries immediately slotted into the style of play that the Dean Court patrons have come to admire in recent years.
With Wiggins and Cooper presumably injured, Cummins got a rare start at left-back and Bartley dropped back to central defence. However, even without Marvellous Marvin, our midfield looked a formidable unit and soon had the visitors on the back foot. With barely five minutes on the clock, Pugh found both Hollands and Ings unmarked on the left. After the slightest of hesitations between the pair, Hollands advanced on goal and drove the ball under former Cherries' loanee David Button to make it 1-0.
The home crowd went wild and (for the rest of the game, in fact) maintained a level of noise that must have left the manager in no doubt as to their appreciation.
If the crowd were intent on making it difficult for Eddie to think of leaving, the players were even more so, as they played a high-tempo passing game that left Plymouth looking bewildered. It was only Button in goal who looked like standing firm under the onslaught. His loan spell with us was undistinguished to say the least, but today he was playing out of his skin - a double save from Robinson, diving to his left to push an Ings piledriver round the post, diving at Pugh's feet, tipping another Ings effort over the bar.
However, seven minutes before the break, he could do nothing about a Liam Feeney shot, possibly deflected, after a scrimmage in the Pilgrims' box in which defenders had desperately flung themselves in front of rampant Cherries attackers.
A now bearded Karl Fletcher playing for the visitors unsurprisingly knew what was coming when the home side attempted their step-over routine at a corner!
The team that Eddie built were playing with belief and intent and the crowd responded. Throughout the half, Jalal had virtually nothing to do, the visitors' only effort of note being a shot from Mason which narrowly missed the far post.
After a slightly sluggish start during which Jalal actually had to make a save from Bolasie following a breakaway, the hosts soon got into gear and one-way traffic was resumed. Less than 10 minutes in, Robinson jinked his way into the Plymouth penalty area before being brought down by Bhasera and the ref immediately pointed to the spot. Up stepped Pugh, Button committed himself too early and Pugh chipped the ball gently into the opposite side of the net.
Three-nil and it looked as if the flood gates could open, so dominant were the Cherries. Ings was playing like a seasoned pro (much better than Josh McQuoid at the same age) and set up Pugh with only Button to beat. However, the Plymouth stopper was yet again up to the task, saving with his legs. And every time he was beaten, the woodwork came to his aid, denying both Pugh and later Bradbury who had come on to replace Fletcher.
Near the end Symes joined the fray, but once again the post prevented the home side from running up a score that reflected the one-sided nature of the game.
Danny Ings, but could equally go to half a dozen other players.
Admittedly Plymouth were dire, but this was still an outstanding Cherries performance that must have made it hard for Howe to contemplate leaving. The noisy, emotionally charged atmosphere at the game was truly amazing. Most of the crowd stayed on until after the players' huddle to cheer the team and in particular the manager. Eddie waved (possibly farewell) to all sides of the ground before departing to give a rather anguished interview to the press. He might not be the only grown man close to tears come Monday.
AFCB: Jalal, Smith, Bartley, Pearce, Cummings, Feeney, Hollands, Robinson, Pugh, Fletcher, Ings
Subs: Stewart, Purches, Arter, Partington, Bradbury (for Fletcher, 66 mins), Symes (for Feeney, 84 mins), Taylor (for Ings, 88 mins)
Ellis Griffin, Chertsey