All the parties have plenty to lose at Thursday's vital local elections, one of the country's leading political experts has said.
Prof John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, told The Huffington Post UK Labour would "do much better" than its rivals but would face tough questions if it underperformed.
And as the main parties lined up to attack the UK Independence Party, the psephologist said next week could bring a break-through for Nigel Farage's right-wingers.
"The most important thing the elections will do is give an indication about the ability of Ukip to fight effectively on a widespread basis. If they succeed in doing that, how much damage do they do to the Tories?
"This could mark the elections at which Ukip move from being one of the also-rans of English politics, to one of the parties you cannot ignore."
Thursday's elections, which cover huge swathes of England including many entire counties, will pit the two coalition parties - both struggling in the polls - against each other.
"These elections are taking place primarily in territory dominated by the Conservatives and the Lib Dems," said Curtice.
"Both of those parties are losers at the moment.
"In many cases it's about whose vote goes down the least.
"There is one thing which is perfectly clear, which is Labour is going to do much better."
Last time these seats were contested, in 2009, the Labour Party was in the doldrums, with then Prime Minister Gordon Brown rocked by Cabinet resignations including Communities Secretary Hazel Blears, who wore a brooch mocking him.
Labour was thrashed, losing control of flagship counties including Lancashire.
It was an "absolutely appalling performance," said Curtice, adding: "There was an enormous question mark over whether Labour would recover."
This means Labour has fewer sears to defend - but Ed Miliband will be under pressure if it doesn't recover all the ground lost in 2009.
"The Lib Dems are a lot weaker now, and given Labour's current lead over the Conservatives, if the Labour Party does not at least get itself back to where it was in 2005, questions will be asked," Curtice said.
As for Ukip, Nigel Farage's party also have to live up to 2009, when the vote coincided with European elections, boosting their performance.
Curtice said Ukip could struggle to pick up significant numbers of seats, because their vote is "so evenly spread".
"They are also defending their best ever results," he added.
There's unlikely to be much to cheer for Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats, but because they are fighting the Tories, rather than Labour, for many seats, "we may well find that the Lib Dems do not lose that many seats, even though their vote goes down quite a lot," Curtice said.
But he added: "The Lib Dems are still losing far too many of their former voters to the Labour Party."