Almost the end for Boro
With the destination of the title settled in the early game, afternoon interest centered on the battle to avoid the drop, which all the clubs involved have been attempting to lose; none of them could have any real complaint were the Premier League to decide that six of them deserve relegating on this occasion.
What on earth anyone thought the insightless Alan Shearer might offer to Newcasltle has never been confirmed, so it is unsurprising that he has managed but a single win so far - and that against one of the only two sides below them in the table. While that win against Boro coupled with the incompetence of the teams around them might yet save them, they slipped back into the bottom three after a home defeat to Fulham.
Organised and composed, The Cottagers came away with the points thanks to a smart break that ended with Diomansy Kamara's finish, swept into the roof of the net on 41 minutes. Newcastle's situation was not helped when Bassong was dimissed on the hour, forced into fouling Kamara by the hesitancy of his goalkeeper. He will now be suspended for next week's game at Villa, when even a win might not save them. Fulham, meanwhile, need a point to guarantee a spot in The Competition Formerly Known As The UEFA Cup.
Although no one will be upset to see the back of Phil Brown and his ostentatious headset, Hull probably deserve to stay up more than most, for the way they played in the early part of the season. They dominated the first half against Bolton, but in front of goal they were as careless as David Chaytor, their profligacy punished when they went behind to a Steinsson goal. However Hull continued to control the game and not only deserved Craig Fagan's equaliser, but were denied victory solely by the excellence of Jussi Jaskelaainen in the Bolton net. A point ahead of Newcastle, they know a win next week against a resting Manchester United, and they're safe.
The fate of another club with a nauseating manager was as good as sealed when Middlesbrough could only draw at home to Aston Villa. They took the lead with a brilliant overhead kick from their only decent player, the tuftily-haired Tuncay, but Villa fought back and John Carew finished cooly following a goalmouth scramble.
At Goodison Park, Everton went behind to West Ham after Radislav Kovac's early goal. But the home side were on terms soon after, winning a penalty when Leon Osman was tripped in the area by James Tomkins,who was sent off. Saha not only scored easily from the spot, but managed to do without sustaining an injury, much to everyone's surprise. Yobo gave Everton the lead in the second half, and Saha ensured victory by adding a third on 76 minutes.
After last week's no-show in the local derby, Manchester City were equally poor in the first half at White Hart Lane, Spurs taking a deserved lead with an adroit backheel from Jermaine Defoe. City improved in the second half, though, equalising with a goal from Valery Bojinov. However Tottenham pinched the win with a controversial late penalty, scored by Robbie Keane after Micah Richards collided with Fraizer Campbell.
Stoke underlined their Premier League status with a hard-fought home win against Wigan. Ricardo Fuller and James Beattie scored the goals, and it is that partnership that has allowed them to survive their first season back in the top flight with relative comfort.
Manchester United will be celebrating following today's 0-0 home draw with Arsenal, which secured their third title in a row. The first club to achieve this on more than one occasion, they also equalled Liverpool's record of 18 league championships, despite a quite ludicrous claim on Liverpool's website that the "titles" they "won" during the two world wars mean that the mark actually stands at 20. The game itself was forgettable, Arsenal enjoying a greater share of possession without ever really looking likely to score, and United were only denied a winner by an incorrect offside decision.