push to the wall

push (one) to the wall

To force one into a desperate position in which one's options are limited and typically require desperate actions. If the government continues pushing its citizens to the wall, it shouldn't be surprised when they rise up to destroy it. Increasing financial pressures are pushing Tom to the wall. I think he needs help.
See also: push, wall

push someone to the wall

 and press someone to the wall
to force someone into a position where there is only one choice to make; to put someone in a defensive position. There was little else I could do. They pushed me to the wall.
See also: push, wall