May took on her detractors in a punchy address to the party's annual conference, a day after her rival, former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, challenged her authority with a crowd-pleasing speech of his own.
It was the most calamitous conference speech anyone can remember and it was hard not to feel sorry for Theresa May at that moment when everything that could have gone wrong did for the prime minister, who had arrived in the north politically vulnerable and desperately needing all the luck and reassurance she could get from her party after the humiliating election result four months earlier.
In a speech created to rally her party behind her following a conference riven by differences over Brexit, Mrs May warned that squabbling over the details of European Union withdrawal might mean "ending up with no Brexit at all".
Eurosceptic MPs led by former foreign minister Boris Johnson have held a string of packed fringe meetings to argue against May's plan for Britain to follow European Union trade rules on goods.
Asked if her MPs may vote down a Brexit deal that treats Northern Ireland differently, Mrs Foster told the BBC: "We don't want to be in that position".
"And there's another reason why we need to come together".
As part of the seven days of intense negotiating activity, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar will consult with the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, and EU President Donald Tusk in Brussels on Thursday. "If you have a belief, you should be able to have your belief, otherwise we would live in a very intolerant world, wouldn't we?"
But she delivered a stinging riposte to his reported "f*** business" comment, saying the business community should know that "there is a four-letter word to describe what we Conservatives want to do to you - it has a single syllable, it is of Anglo-Saxon derivation, it ends in the letter K. Back businesses".
But May's future remains uncertain. Criticism from the left, such as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, is much to be expected - but May has also suffered sharp rebukes from fellow conservatives.
Pro-Brexit legislator James Duddridge on Wednesday (Thursday NZT) called the Brexit negotiations "an absolute disaster" and said he had added his name to a list of Conservative lawmakers demanding a confidence vote in the prime minister.
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May is urging her fractious Conservative Party to unite and help her seal a deal with the bloc.
"Turns out there is a plan".
Duddridge then cemented himself firmly as a backer of Boris Johnson in an interview with Sky News, describing Johnson's Tuesday speech as "inspirational".
DUP leader Arlene Foster has said her party's red line against any Brexit deal that treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the United Kingdom is "blood red".
"It is no surprise that we have had a range of different views expressed this week", May said.
No new dates have been confirmed for the next round of negotiations between Barnier and British Brexit minister Dominic Raab, but several European Union diplomats said they expected them to take place in Brussels next week. And that means two things.
There is also the contentious matter of Northern Ireland.
Officials and sources on both sides say there is a clear will to try to overcome the obstacles to winning a withdrawal deal and agreeing a framework for future ties - a deal on the Northern Ireland border and EU-UK trade.
In her speech, May again stuck to her Chequers plan, named after her country residence where she hashed out an agreement over the proposals in July.