Who will be the last man standing?

In a four-way fight for survival, Norwich lead the desperate chase as Harry Redknapp's Saints cling to last-gasp lifeline at Palace and Captain Marvel conjures a precious point at Old Trafford
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The Independent Online

The Canaries and the Baggies are still flying by the seat of their pants, and Harry Houdini may yet complete his escape act as the circus at the foot of the table heads for its last act.

The Canaries, the Eagles and the Baggies are still flying by the seat of their pants, and the Saints are still alive. But as the circus at the foot of the Premiership goes into its final act on the programme, the question remains ­ who will play the role of Harry Houdini and conjure an escape act?

Norwich City soared from the bottom after a stunning 1-0 home victory over 10-man Birmingham City courtesy of Dean Ashton's penalty, and West Bromwich Albion had Tomasz Kuszczak to thank for clinging on to a 1-1 draw at Manchester United. The young Polish goalkeeper, who had to come on for the injured Russell Hoult, produced a string of fine saves and earned the luck that went his way.

But if the Canaries and the Baggies could count themselves lucky after surviving too many scares for comfort at Carrow Road and Old Trafford respectively, Harry Redknapp's Southampton looked certain to be heading nearer to the bottom as their scruffy, 10-a-side scrap away to Crystal Palace, their relegation rivals, went into added time with their South London hosts leading 2-1.

Take a bow, Danny Higginbotham. The man who scored an own goal during the Saints' remarkable 4-3 home win over Norwich last weekend was lurking at the far post to score what could prove to be a vital equaliser from a cross by Kevin Phillips. Redknapp could breathe again.

So, too, could Norwich and West Bromwich. A positive result either way in the Palace match would have damaged their chances of avoiding an immediate return to the Championship. But the hopes of both are still alive. Palace's manager, Iain Dowie, was frustrated that his side had lost vital points through a lapse in concentration. "We had it in our own hands but for 90 seconds," he said. "It feels like a defeat and the manner of the draw makes it difficult to swallow." Palace's survival rests on their trip to Charlton a week today.

Redknapp was frustrated at the dismissal of his goalscorer, Peter Crouch, along with Palace's Gonzalo Sorondo, after an altercation that led to a brawl. Crouch will miss the Saints' last match, at home to Manchester United. "We lost a key player," he said. "The referee said to the players he was going to give them yellow."

Nigel Worthington, a cool head amid the tension, summed up the position perfectly after his Norwich side's victory. "We have had a bit of luck, but it is that silly time of the season," he said. His side's last match a week today is at Fulham.

The former Manchester United and England player Bryan Robson, whose West Bromwich side host Portsmouth next weekend, put the pressure into perspective. "If we do stay up it will be the best achievement I've had in football." It would be a feat worthy of Houdini, indeed.

Chelsea's achievement in winning the Premiership was marked by the trophy presentation after they beat Charlton 1-0, Claude Makelele scoring after his last-minute penalty had been parried.

Liverpool were brought down from the high of beating Chelsea in the Champions' League on Tuesday when they learned they must finish fourth to play in the tournament next season. Their neighbours, Everton, look like stopping them after they beat Newcastle 2-0. Liverpool now face a tricky kind of win-win situation. To have a chance of coming fourth they must win both their remaining games, starting today at Arsenal.

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