Take Manuel Thetis, for example, Ipswich Town's pounds 50,000 bargain of a French defender, signed from Seville. He scored the second-placed club's winner in the 15th minute of their tricky trip to West Bromwich Albion when he met Jamie Clapham's chip with an overhead kick 15 yards out - his third goal of the season. But five minutes from time the 26-year-old was sent off with Albion's Sean Flynn after a scuffle and faces his fourth suspension of the season.
"Harsh," George Burley, the Ipswich manager, thought. But he was happy with the win. "That's one defeat in nine games so we are on a bit of a roll. We are showing good consistency and the others have to catch us."
Closest behind are Bradford City, who were given a fright by the bottom club, Bristol City. After a goalless half-hour, Bradford scored twice before half-time, Lee Mills taking his season's total to 22 after a Mark Shail miskick set him up and a Wayne Jacobs chip adding the second. "A very sloppy second-half display from us and we almost paid for it," Paul Jewell, the Bradford manager, said, after two Bristol headers levelled the scores with nine minutes to go. But Gareth Whalley grabbed Bradford's late winner.
Rob Edwards, the Bristol midfielder, was thought to have severed an artery in his leg but after being stretchered off the injury was diagnosed as less serious.
Fourth-placed Birmingham City were in confident, attacking mood after three consecutive wins but had to be content with a 1-1 draw at Huddersfield Town, the Terriers' Delroy Facey equalising eight minutes after Michael Johnson had given Brum a 55th-minute lead. Trevor Francis, who lost Dele Adebola with a hamstring injury and saw Gary Rowett sent off, said: "I shall not be bringing anyone else in before the transfer deadline - unless Ronaldo's knee injury has cleared up."
Dean Richards was Wolves' villain turned hero at Oakwell where Barnsley, determined to banish the disappointment of their midweek FA Cup defeat by Spurs, led 2-0 thanks to a Richards own goal a Scott Jones free-kick. But Wolves fought back and, in the 90th minute, Richards volleyed in at the right end to seal a 3-2 win. John Hendrie, the Tykes' manager, was unhappy. "We've been let down badly today by the lads at the back. It's not as if they were a better football team than us, but an alehouse goal and a defensive mistake have handed them two goals on a plate. It's hard to take. We beat ourselves."
At the bottom matters are just as tight. Crewe, for so long propping up the division, kept their revival going with a 3-1 defeat of Oxford United at Gresty Road. It was 1-1 with five minutes to go but a Colin Little goal, which looked offside, put them ahead again and, after Oxford's goalkeeper, Paul Gerrard, was sent off, a Shaun Smith penalty - "a bit harsh" according to Dario Gradi, the Crewe manager - kept the Railwaymen on track.
Cheltenham Town, favourites to join the league from the Conference, took over pole position when they beat the previous leaders, generous Kettering Town, who contributed two own goals to Cheltenham's 3-0 win. The new leaders have four games in hand.Reuse content