There is a saying in Russian
To jump into the last car of the departing train
This basically means to use an opportunity at the last moment, to finally decide to do something right before it is too late.
Is there a similar idiom in English?
This idiom may pertain here: the last chance saloon. It originally referred to a saloon in the American West at the end of the town, the last chance for a drink. The Oxford English Dictionary also gives this second figurative meaning ("last chance saloon, n.," def. 2):
- figurative and in figurative contexts. A final opportunity or hope for success; the last refuge of the unsuccessful or desperate. Now chiefly British.
1947 Time 7 July 23/2 Paris had been the last chance for One Europe (a U.S. reporter had dubbed the Parrot Salon, where the Ministers met, the ‘Last Chance Saloon’).
Note that the idiom labels the opportunity itself, not the use of that opportunity to do something right. Someone has not necessarily used that opportunity successfully yet. They merely can do something right. This headline and subtitle capture that, as Mr. Trafford's physical therapy is framed here as the last chance for athletes to come back:
Former American Football player has become "last chance saloon" for injured athletes. Professional sports stars including former Lionesses, Liverpool and Celtic academy prospects, MMA fighters and rugby players have turned to Tendai Trafford for kinetic therapy (The Mirror)
You could describe this as doing something in the nick of time. TfD defines this phrase as:
At the last possible moment before a deadline or before something begins or ends; just in time.
How about "a last ditch effort"?
A last-ditch effort or attempt is one final, no-holds-barred, possibly desperate push to accomplish (or prevent) something. It’s a reference to the military tradition of defending your territory to the death, even when invaders have reached your very last trenches; the phrase die in the last ditch has been around since the early 18th century.]1