There comes a time in every Premier League campaign when the survival instincts of the sides fighting at the wrong end of the division kick in and they start registering surprise results.
Leicester last season were a prime example of that, while Gus Poyet’s Sunderland and Roberto Martinez’s Wigan have also leapt to safety having turned over some big names towards the end of the season.
In the latest round of top-flight fixtures, we may have just seen the early signs that the “survival season” has begun.
The Black Cats, now well-versed in the rigours of a relegation battle, were 2-0 down on the road to Liverpool but scored twice inside the final ten minutes to earn a draw. The result took them within four points of safety.
Similarly, in south Wales, Swansea held off Crystal Palace, strong travellers for much of the campaign, at the Liberty Stadium.
Their own draw made it four games unbeaten for the Swans, who now have a four-point cushion over Norwich in 18th.
Ladbrokes have eased the Welsh club to 9/2 to be relegated this season, with Sunderland still an odds-on shot at 1/5. However, with those two inspiring results, both clubs could now find the confidence to launch themselves up the table.
Elsewhere, Aston Villa won for just the third time this season, beating a free-falling Norwich outfit 2-0. The Villans still have a lot of work to do to ensure their top-flight status, but have now lost just once in the last five league games under Remi Garde.
Alex Neil’s Canaries are the one side in the relegation scrap yet to rally. The Carrow Road club are on a five-game losing streak and can still be backed at 8/11 for the drop.
In the north east, Newcastle earned a vital victory over West Brom thanks to Aleksander Mitrovic’s solitary goal.
Steve McClaren’s side are a point clear of Norwich and a 6/4 chance for the drop, but have won two of their last four and look strong enough to survive after their January spending spree.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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