Sentence taken from the first volume of 「となりの信國さんは俺のことが好きな気がする」
Context: Two girls are sitting together during lunch break when one of them starts eating bread, then the other girl says the sentence above…
I was a bit puzzled about the meaning of 「この前」in this sentence when I found this explanation of the sentence: https://hinative.com/en-US/questions/19961591
This explanation made perfect sense to me yet got me wondering about 「この前（に）」again. Until now I always thought of「この前（に）」as referring to close past events, however here it seems to be referring to the immediate past, in the sense of “just before this moment”. When I searched for an explanation, I found a lot of articles discussing the similarities and differences of 「この前」and「この間」. In short, while these expressions are similar and sometimes interchangeable (meaning wise), the meaning of「この間」 doesn’t seem to fit here. 「この前に」seems to be closer to 「（つい）さっき」here, as in referring to the absolutely most recent past. However, I haven’t been able to find any articles discussing this possible similarity between 「この前に」and 「（つい）さっき」.
I also checked this question here How to differentiate between references in past to mean "last time" or "earlier" . However, it just doesn't quite adress what I am looking for.
All in all, I have three questions regarding the use and meaning of 「この前に」:
- First of all, is my understanding of 「この前に」in this sentence correct?
- If yes, is this use of 「この前に」identifiable without context?
- Is the way「この前に」 is used here common?