Concern would grow over Roy Hodgson's ability to manage England if they don't win in Montenegro on Tuesday night, Matt Lawton told The Sunday Supplement.
The Three Lions enjoyed an 8-0 thrashing of San Marino on Friday night but now travel to Group H leaders Montenegro knowing the result could prove decisive in terms of which side secures automatic qualification for the 2014 World Cup and which team must go into the play-offs.
After draws with Ukraine and Poland, England sit two points off top spot and know a victory would take them a lot closer to sealing their trip to Brazil - but Lawton says the pressure is on, despite Hodgson's insistence defeat would not be terminal to their hopes of qualifying.
"Tuesday will determine how we feel about Hodgson [as England manager]," said the Daily Mail sports editor.
"On Friday night Hodgson said, because of the way the group is forming, without any real danger from a third-placed team - there's a six point gap - even if we lose to Montenegro he won't need a shovel to get us out of trouble. I don't know about that.
"If England lose, after drawing two games already in this group, it doesn't look terribly promising.
"I don't think any sports editor will be calling for the FA to hit the nuclear button and get a new manager in to get us over the line, that would be an overreaction. But there would be a danger it could be a repeat of 2008 and a repeat of USA 1994 [when England failed to qualify for major tournaments].
"It would be scary if they dropped points there."
However, The Times sports editor Tony Evans, reckons England fans and the FA are satisfied with Hodgson's achievements as national team boss to date.
"After some of the chaos we've had around the England job there's a sense of stability and sense he's going in the right direction," he said.
"He's not pulled up any trees, it's not a new and exciting England but he never offered that. What you see with Roy Hodgson is what you get; you get organisation, doing the basics well and hopefully a result on Tuesday night.
"If they lose people may look for someone a bit more dynamic but at the moment everyone's quite happy."
The result against San Marino will certainly give the national team a shot of confidence before their crucial clash in Podgorica, however, Dave Walker, the Sunday Mirror's sports editor, doesn't believe Hodgson will be able to take much from the game and called for minnows such as San Marino to face a pre-qualifying tournament.
"San Marino have played five and let in 24 without scoring," he said.
"I honestly think if you had the England U16 team against England, they'd have been a bigger challenge.
"San Marino and the other minnows should go into a pre-qualifying tournament before going into the tournament proper.
"I don't think Hodgson gained anything in terms of knowledge from that game. The great thing was they got the three points, didn't get any bad injuries, got out of there and the big one is on Tuesday."