Arsenal’s grip on the final Champions League spot tightened from relatively strong to a full-blown Bob Backlund, cross-face chicken wing after cruising to a 3-0 win over a Newcastle team dreaming of deck chairs and sangria.
The three points the Gunners plundered saw them move to within one win away from a guaranteed top-four finish and dash the hopes of Everton, who are ruing recent losses to Crystal Palace and Southampton.
Despite the commanding position this victory elevated the north Londoners into, the real winners of last night’s match were the previously condemned Norwich.
Arsene Wenger takes his side to Carrow Road on the final day of the campaign, after facing West Brom at the Emirates next.
The victory their penultimate match is heavily forecast to bring will ensure the chasing pack finish the season eating Arsenal dust and will simultaneously render the capital club’s Norfolk sojourn a so-called ‘dead rubber’ from their perspective.
One side who will be rubbing away like a numbskull in a physics exam, though, is Norwich, who are cursing the cruel conclusion to the campaign that the evil schemers at fixture generator HQ served them up.
Currently third-bottom on goal difference, the side under Neil Adams’ temporary charge have lost five on the spin and travel to title-chasing Chelsea next, who are sure to inflict successive defeat number six on the boys in lemon and lime.
So dire is their situation the odds gurus at bwin.com seem to have made their mind up regarding their fate, with a microscopic 9/100 saying they’ll be plying their trade in the Championship next term.
One win could still be enough to see them squirm off the hook though and three points at Arsenal’s expense now represents a very real possibility.
Norwich proved an insurmountable obstacle in this fixture last season, with a Grant Holt goal earning home spoils.
Another desperately required cause for Canary optimism comes in the form of the rousing effort they put in when losing 3-2 to Liverpool in their most recent home game, bombarding the Reds box with long balls that may have resulted in them snatching an equaliser were it only for a little extra quality.
The Gunners also have a tendency to offer a hand to sides in the mire in the final acts, two defeats against Wigan in the 2009/10 and 2011/12 vintages spring to mind, which all helps dilute the foul taste of doom currently swirling around Norwich mouths and makes their relegation odds worth opposing.