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Apr 20, 2011

Gunners slip to third after thriller

Arsenal's title hopes are hanging by a thread after they blew a two-goal lead against Tottenham Hotspur to draw 3-3 at White Hart Lane. The Gunners have now slipped to third in the table, six points behind leaders Manchester United, after Chelsea beat Birmingham City 3-1.

• Lomas: Blues back in with a shout
• Wenger to fight on for title
• Wednesday's gallery Photo Gallery

Both sides entered the North London derby knowing that only a win would be of benefit, and the consequence was a frenetic start, with two goals in the opening seven minutes. First Theo Walcott latched onto Cesc Fabregas' through pass before sliding the ball past Heurelho Gomes, then Rafael van der Vaart equalised just 82 seconds later, collecting a pass from Vedran Corluka before rifling in from 18 yards.

But parity was short lived, as the Gunners answered Arsene Wenger's call for them to play without fear by bouncing straight back from the setback. On 12 minutes, Samir Nasri picked the ball up just outside the Spurs area before driving a shot past Gomes, with Michael Dawson inexplicably reluctant to close down the France international.

And it was another defensive error from Spurs, with William Gallas the guilty party, that allowed Arsenal to move 3-1 ahead after 40 minutes. Gallas' attempt to clear the ball from inside the penalty area only landed at the feet of Walcott, and he stood up a cross for Van Persie, who volleyed in after his first header was superbly saved by Gomes.

For the second time in the match, Spurs struck back immediately, with Tom Huddlestone arrowing in a left-footed half-volley in the corner from 20 yards after Arsenal failed to cope with a cross into the area.

It was Spurs who responded better after half-time, pinning Arsenal back for long periods - and they got the reward their pressure deserved on 70 minutes when Szczesny felled Lennon in the area, allowing Van der Vaart to step up and level the scores.

The Dutchman's strike did nothing to quell Spurs' dominance, and Arsenal were grateful for two stellar saves from Szczesny, who atoned for giving away the penalty by keeping out drives from Modric and Sandro. In the end, neither could force the win they needed, with Spurs' hopes of a Champions League place next season fading as rapidly as Arsenal's title dream.

In the evening's other game, Florent Malouda was the two-goal hero for Chelsea, who climbed into second, as Fernando Torres again failed to find the target against Birmingham. Malouda soothed any nerves inside Stamford Bridge by firing the hosts into the lead with less than two minutes gone, converting after Didier Drogba nodded Paulo Ferreira's cross into his path.

And Carlo Ancelotti's hopes of holding onto the top job were boosted 20 minutes later when Salomon Kalou, preferred to Torres in the starting line-up, doubled the lead. The Ivory Coast international waltzed past two men before unleashing a howitzer past Ben Foster.

The game was killed off ten minutes after the interval when Ryan Bertrand, on as a substitute for Ashley Cole, whipped over a cross that an unmarked Malouda nodded home from six yards. Birmingham's consolation came from Sebastian Larsson, who netted a spot-kick following David Luiz's foul on Matt Derbyshire.

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