Emmanuel Adebayor scored a late winner for Tottenham as they came from a goal down to beat Stoke City 2-1 at the Britannia Stadium and move ahead of Arsenal into fourth place.
Steven Nzonzi headed Stoke in front after only three minutes but Tottenham laid siege to the home side's goal, Clint Dempsey pulling them level on 20 minutes with a clever instinctive finish to beat the stranded Asmir Begovic.
Stoke's hopes of taking a point were fatally damaged when Charlie Adam was dismissed after only a minute of the second half when being shown a second yellow card, even if Tottenham had to wait until the 83rd minute to claim their winner.
Benefitting from a fortunate deflection in the box, Adebayor built on his fine performance in the 2-2 draw against Chelsea in midweek when sweeping the ball home at the back post to put Spurs two points ahead of Arsenal having played a game more.
Had Tottenham been held to a draw, Arsenal would have only needed to beat Wigan at home on Tuesday to effectively secure a top-four spot with a game remaining. Thanks to the intervention of their former player, though, the pressure is now firmly back on the red half of North London and the battle for fourth will go to the final day.
Spurs brought Dempsey into the team at Lewis Holtby's expense in one of two changes, while Stoke replaced Cameron Jerome with Matthew Etherington in a first XI that lacked potency - indeed, only QPR had scored fewer than Stoke's 32 goals in 36 games.
Tony Pulis's side can be neutered effectively if they are denied the oxygen of set-pieces in advanced positions, which made it perplexing when Dempsey gave away a silly free-kick with only three minutes on the clock when kicking an opponent.
Adam stood over the ball and dropped a delicious delivery in to the near post, where Nzonzi had freed himself of his marker to direct a header at goal. Hugo Lloris got his glove to the ball but couldn't wrap his fingers around it and prevent it sneaking in.
The goal temporarily threw Spurs off their stride, but with the double player of the year in their ranks it was not long before Stoke were on the back foot once more. Gareth Bale, performing through the centre again, saw one wicked effort from 25 yards tipped over by Begovic and threatened on a number of other occasions.
Still, it was Dempsey who got Spurs back level, minutes after having an effort ruled out for offside when he flicked a shot past Begovic. Scott Parker chipped a pass through midfield and as Begovic came to the left of the box to claim the ball, Marc Wilson slid in to send it right, the ball rolling to Dempsey who spooned it home first time with a cute improvised finish from 25 yards.
Tottenham continued to dominate and their supremacy was hardly dented by a red card shown to Adam within a minute of the second half. Having already been rather harshly booked for a clumsy knock into Jan Vertonghen, he tripped the same player to concede a rather more blatant foul.
Vertonghen, who provided so much energy from left-back, then went close to claiming a second for his side when he got free at the back post to meet a free-kick and headed over the bar. Dempsey also saw a 20-yard piledriver touched over by Begovic, while Bale flashed a right-footed effort just wide from the vicinity of the penalty spot, as Stoke continued to soak up pressure.
Robert Huth wasted a rare chance for the home side when heading over from a dangerous free-kick after 81 minutes and Stoke were to be punished when Adebayor settled the tie for the visitors. The ball took a fortunate deflection to find Dempsey in the box and his cross was converted at the back post by the striker.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Clint Dempsey: A goal and an assist for the American, who for once outshone Bale in the trio behind the lone striker.
STOKE: Begovic 6, Shotton 6, Shawcross 7, Huth 6, Wilson 5, Whitehead 5, Nzonzi 7, Adam 5, Etherington 5, Walters 6, Crouch 5. Subs: Jerome 6, Wilkinson 7, Cameron 6.
SPURS: Lloris 6, Walker 6, Dawson 7, Caulker 6, Vertonghen 8, Huddlestone 7, Parker 6, Lennon 5, Bale 6, Dempsey 8, Adebayor 8. Subs: Dembele 6, Defoe 6, Sigurdsson 6.
- Sports & Recreation
- Clint Dempsey
- Emmanuel Adebayor
- Asmir Begovic
- Charlie Adam
- Steven Nzonzi