The four-team scrap over the Premier League’s final two Champions League places promises to go the distance despite Saturday’s results seeing Arsenal and Newcastle earn breathing space over chasing Tottenham and Chelsea.
There was no winner or goals in the lunchtime clash between Arsenal and Chelsea, an outcome widely viewed as better for the visitors, though it leaves the Gunners seven points clear of their capital rivals, who have only 12 left to play for.
Consequently, those dropped points at home to Wigan and Chelsea haven’t altered their billing as top-four near certainties at 1/20. The Blues by contrast are 2/1, yet Champions League glory (13/2) would guarantee them a spot.
Newcastle pounced on that draw however, cruising to a 3-0 victory over a Stoke side with far less at stake, a Yohan Cabaye double and the standard Papiss Demba Cisse goal helping them claim a sixth successive triumph.
That lifted them to fourth, piling the pressure on Spurs prior to their short trip to QPR. They failed to handle it, former employee Adel Taarabt inflicting a 1-0 defeat that makes it one win in nine for the one-time title challengers.
But even though Newcastle are now three points above Harry Redknapp’s men with four games remaining, they are 6/4 to secure a Champions League slot to the north Londoners’ 5/4.
The doubt is provided by a rather intimidating closing sequence which forces the Magpies to travel to Wigan, Chelsea and Everton and host Manchester City, four clubs likely to have a lot riding on those fixtures.
Tottenham’s schedule is slightly less scary, taking them to Bolton and Aston Villa and sending Blackburn and Fulham to White Hart Lane, but they require an immediate change of fortunes.
Alan Pardew’s Premier League success at Redknapp’s expense isn’t expected to help him pip the Spurs boss to the England job however. Redknapp is still a dominant 4/11 favourite, with Pardew a 20/1 outsider.