LONDON: Newcastle’s dreams of a return to the Champions League were jarred in a 4-0 defeat by relegation-battling Wigan whose four-goal first-half salvo simultaneously enhanced their own survival hopes.
Roberto Martinez’s side turned in their best 45 minutes of the season in the first half, and then kept an improved Newcastle at bay after the break to move three points clear of the drop zone.
Victor Moses took advantage of some lax defending to head in the first after 13 minutes and was then gifted an even easier second two minutes later after Fabricio Coloccini fluffed a clearance. Worse was to come for Newcastle after 36 minutes when Shaun Maloney shot homeon the angle and Franco Di Santo scored an even more impressive fourth in stoppage time.
There was further drama at Swansea, where the hosts led 4-1 at one stage but then allowed already-relegated Wolves to claim a point in a 4-4 draw.
Swansea scored three times in the opening 15 minutes and appeard to be cruising. Andrea Orlandi turned in Scott Sinclair’s cross before Wolves had touched the ball, and it was 2-0 after four minutes when Joe Allen broke away and found the net with the help of a deflection off Richard Stearman.
Nathan Dyer headed in a third after 15 minutes, but a fine header from Steven Fletcher gave Wolves hope moments later. Danny Graham’s calm finish put Swansea 4-1 up after half-an-hour, but again they were pegged back as Matt Jarvis cut in from the left to score.
Wolves, encouraged, charged forward in the second half. Dave Edwards raced through to cap a fine move and make it 4-3, and Jarvis then levelled in the 69th minute, meeting Fletcher’s low cross.
Everton also netted four goals, with the in-form Nikica Jelavic helping them to a 4-0 victory over Fulham. His seventh-minute free-kick was blocked by Pavel Pogrebnyak’s hand inside the area, and the January signing from Rangers stepped up to send Mark Schwarzer the wrong way from the penalty spot.
Marouane Fellaini was allowed a free header to double the lead after 16 minutes before Jelavic’s second of the afternoon and ninth in the last seven games made it 3-0 six minutes before the break. Tim Cahill came off the bench to score the fourth on the hour.
No such goa-happy luck for Arsenal who were held 1-1 at Stoke. Peter Crouch’s ninth-minute header put the hosts ahead before Robin van Persie netted a simple finish from Tomas Rosicky’s cross to level on the quarter-hour mark, his 35th goal of the season. Arsenal are third, four points ahead of Newcastle, having played a game more.
Bolton, needing a win to climb out of the drop zone, took the lead at Sunderland when Martin Petrov’s fine cross was volleyed home by Kevin Davies at the far post, but Nicklas Bendtner levelled before the break. James McClean then put the hosts on top with a 55th-minute free-kick, but a Davies header earned Bolton a point 20 minutes from time.
Aston Villa did little to ease their relegation worries as in a goalless draw at West Bromwich.
** Southampton guaranteed themselves promotion back to the Premier League after they clinched runners-up spot behind Reading in the Championship [second division] with a 4-0 home win over Coventry. The play0ff spots were claimed by West Ham, Birmingham City, Blackpool and Cardiff City.
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