FranticFish - 8:28 am on May 11, 2011 (gmt 0)
If the links are less than super-trusted, then you get a honeymoon period then obscurity. Classic 'sandbox'.
Then over time even less than fantastic links start to gain some trust (at least they did before Panda, no very recent experience).
If you can get even one fantastic link any initial rankings are likely to stick just the way you see them from the start.
I believe Google has patents to analyse link 'spikes', so an initial spate of links then nothing looks like a marketing effort. Sustained links over time from a variety of sources looks like natural 'buzz' around something noteworthy.