Pearson on course to produce another great escape act
Burnley 0 Leicester 1
It used to be the iron rule of the Premier League that if you were bottom at Christmas you should start getting rid of the Bentleys and discreetly ask Majestic Wine if they do a sale-or-return on Cristal champagne. You were going down.
If, as seems likely after their dramatic win at Turf Moor, Leicester City survive, they will become only the third club to buck that trend. It will the second time for Nigel Pearson, who was Bryan Robson's assistant in 2005 when West Bromwich Albion became the first club to break the Christmas hoodoo.
Compared with what happened at The Hawthorns, where West Bromwich were bottom when the final round of fixtures kicked off, Leicester, who have spent 140 days at the foot of the table, might survive comfortably.
Pearson had no deep explanation as to why Leicester, whose fourth successive victory this was, have transformed themselves, except to say that his players had never lost their belief or the feeling that their fate was still in their own hands. It wasn't.
No side bottom of the table for the best part of five months truly has control over its own destiny. For Leicester to succeed, others above them had to fail. They did and Leicester seized the opening.
Marc Albrighton, whose cross produced Leicester's winner less than a minute after Matt Taylor had missed a penalty for Burnley, had another explanation.
"It did look daunting, I am not going to lie," said the midfielder. "But we got a late winner at home to West Ham and I think that could be classed as a turning point.
"The week after, we scored late against West Brom to win it and late goals breed confidence."
The one bundled over the line by Jamie Vardy after Michael Duff had all but turned Albrighton's cross past his own goalkeeper came with half an hour remaining.
Given what was at stake, Burnley might have been expected to pour forward towards Kasper Schmeichel's goal.
Just before kick-off, banners with the slogan #Believe (which had been Wigan's battle cry during their remarkable escape from relegation in 2012) were held up to the crowd.
It was Burnley's players who seemed to need reminding. They were clearly the better side but only when Taylor was brought down did it seem they might actually win.
Taylor (below) took the penalty himself and slipped slightly before he made contact.
Schmeichel, who had already saved remarkably from Taylor in the first half, was seized by a curious thought - that he would not save the penalty but that the midfielder would miss. He struck the foot of an upright.
Most Premier League footballers who had missed the most important penalty of their club's season would not have faced the press afterwards but walked to their cars pretending to be on the phone - a favourite trick. Taylor did face the dictaphones.
"Sometimes you have to be big enough to stand up and take them," he said.
"And when you don't score, you have to be big enough to take the criticism that might come your way.
"It is very difficult in the pressure cooker of the Premier League, with the media scrutiny and the thousands of people who watch, for even the most experienced footballer to be relaxed in this situation. It is the best league in the world and we have four more games and four more opportunities to stay in it. It is not the end of the season."
Taylor was right, of course, but for anyone wearing claret and blue at Turf Moor, it felt like it. (© Independent News Service)
Battle to avoid drop
Newcastle 35 PTS, -31 GD
Leicester (a) Sat, West Brom (h) May 9,
QPR (a) May 16, West Ham (h) May 24
Aston Villa 32 PTS, -22 GD
Everton (h) Sat, West Ham (h) May 9, Southampton (a) May 16, Burnley (h) May 24
Hull 31 PTS, -14 GD
Liverpool (h) tomorrow, Arsenal (h) May 4, Burnley (h) May 9, Spurs (a) May 16, Man U (h) May24
Leicester 31 PTS, -16 GD
Chelsea (h) Wed, Newcastle (h) May 2, So'ton (h) May 9, Sunderland (a) May 16, QPR (h) May 24
Sunderland 30 PTS, -23 GD
So'ton (h) Sat, Everton (a) May 9, Leicester (h) May 16, Arsenal (a) May 20, Chelsea (a) May 24
QPR 27 PTS, -21 GD
Liverpool (a) Sat, Manchester City (a) May 10, Newcastle (h) May 16, Leicester (a) May 24
Burnley 26 PTS, -26 GD
West Ham (a) Sat, Hull (a) May 9, Stoke (h) May 16, Villa (a) May 24