With less than a month of the Premier League season left it remains Chelsea’s title to lose but Tottenham Hotspur defiantly stayed in contention by grinding out a 1-0 victory at Crystal Palace on Wednesday.
Chelsea’s already profitable week looked like getting a whole lot better as Palace doggedly kept Tottenham at bay for 78 minutes but Christian Eriksen’s unstoppable blast meant they are once again looking over their shoulders.
With five games remaining Chelsea, who beat Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-final on Saturday and Southampton in the league on Tuesday, both by 4-2 scorelines, lead Tottenham by four points.
They face Everton on Sunday at Goodison Park while Tottenham face a huge north London derby against Arsenal — probably the last one ever at their historic White Hart Lane stadium.
“It was good to get the three points and be alive in the race for the title,” Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino, aiming to deliver a first title since 1961, said.
“The challenge is to keep going.”
Arsenal were also in action on Wednesday, keeping alive their hopes of finishing in the top four for a 21st successive season with a crucial 1-0 victory over Leicester City courtesy of Robert Huth’s late own goal.
Huth deflected in Nacho Monreal’s volley in the 86th minute to earn a win which put the Gunners sixth, above Everton, three points behind Manchester United and four points behind fourth-placed Manchester City. United face City on Thursday.
“Every win gives you a little more momentum. I don’t have a preference for the Manchester derby, we don’t have to look much at the others. We just have to look after ourselves. The target is clear for us,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said.
Sunderland’s 10-year stay in the top flight will end this weekend if they lose to Bournemouth and Hull City take a point from their trip to Southampton.
That gloomy prospect arose after they were beaten 1-0 by Middlesbrough in a dismal basement derby on Wednesday.
Boro also look destined for the drop but Marten de Roon’s early winner at least gives them hope.
“I think all we do now is we remain focused for the game on Sunday against Manchester City,” Boro manager Steve Agnew said of his side who are six points behind 17th-placed Hull.
All eyes were on Tottenham to see if they would buckle under the pressure against a Palace side who had won six of their last eight in the league to move towards safety, including against leaders Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and Liverpool at Anfield.
Lacking the fluency they had displayed in winning seven consecutive league games in which they scored 22 goals and kept four clean sheets, Tottenham were sloppy on occasions.
But they refused to panic and kept grafting away before Eriksen produced a moment of magic — sending a dipping low shot past Wayne Hennessey to send a clear message to Chelsea.
With 74 points — a new club record in the Premier League — Tottenham look virtually guaranteed a top-four finish but they are clearly not finished yet.
“We are thinking of bigger things than finishing above Arsenal,” Pochettino said afterwards.