Newcastle United are 'signed and sealed' to be promoted back to the Premier League in May, according to Sky Sports pundit Peter Beagrie.
And the expert believes that Rafa Benitez's Magpies will emerge victorious from the two-way Championship title race.
"Can anyone challenge the top two? At the start of the season I went for Newcastle and Brighton to get the automatic promotion spots and I don’t see a reason to change that," said Beagrie.
"I think recent results show how intense the Championship is because both Newcastle and Brighton have been beaten several times this season.
"But after Brighton’s last two results, Newcastle have the edge in the title race.
"Beating Derby was a massive result, especially after dropping points at home to QPR, and Benitez’s side are the favourites for me."
Beagrie does believe that Jaap Stam's Reading side could conceivably mount a late challenge to muscle in on the second tier promotion party.
But he still thinks United and Chris Hughton & Co, currently occupying second, will prevail due to the strength in depth both on Tyneside and the south coast.
"Reading have been amazing," said Beagrie.
"For Jaap Stam to change the dynamic, the shape of the team, the way that they are playing – out from the back, despite the natives being restless – was very brave.
"They needed a centre-forward and they got one in Yann Kermorgant but I just think the top two have so much quality, so much strength in depth and they’ve proved they can bounce back from disappointments.
"Every time they have a set-back Newcastle and Brighton have proved they can win their next game and then go on a run.
"I think with the points deficit that’s already there, the squads and the experience of the managers, they are signed and sealed – but it is the Championship, so we shouldn’t be surprised by anything."