Chaos reigned in the English Premier League’s relegation battle on Monday as Everton scored five goals in a surprising win to climb out of the bottom three and Leicester conceded five in a confidence-sapping loss to drop into it.
Southampton’s 11-year stay in the top division is surely over, meanwhile, after a 4-3 loss at Nottingham Forest plunged the last-placed team eight points from safety with three games left.
There was a total of 21 goals in three games involving relegation-threatened teams, who appeared to take the view that attack was the best form of defense with time running out in the fight to avoid the drop.
Everton’s goal spree was the most surprising. A 5-1 victory at Brighton came out of nowhere, ending a seven-game winless run at the home of a team that had an outside shot at Champions League qualification.
Even wilder was Fulham’s 5-3 win over Leicester, which is in danger of going down just seven years after capturing the league title in one of the greatest sporting stories of all time.
Leicester and Leeds fell into the relegation zone and were tied on 30 points, two behind Everton and three adrift of Forest.
More worrying for Leicester is its tough remaining schedule, with games to come against Liverpool at home, Newcastle away and West Ham at home.
EVERTON’S DREAM START
Everton netted after 34 seconds on its way to the huge win at Brighton, with Abdoulaye Doucoure’s goal the 10th to be scored in the first minute of a league game this season — a record in the league.
Doucoure volleyed home a second in the 29th and it got even better for the visitors when a cross from Dwight McNeil deflected in off the heel of Brighton goalkeeper Jason Steele for an own-goal in the 35th.
McNeil got his goal in the 76th when he dribbled around Steele at the end of a length-of-the-field counterattack and the winger added the fifth, soon after Argentina midfielder Alexis Mac Allister grabbed a 79th-minute consolation for Brighton.
Brighton stayed in seventh place and eight points off the top four with a game in hand.
Everton is looking to extend its 69-year stay in England’s top-flight and has games to come against Manchester City, Wolverhampton and Bournemouth.
Leicester trailed 4-0 after 51 minutes before its second-half fightback came up short against a mid-table Fulham team playing for pride.
Willian and Tom Cairney scored twice each for Fulham along with a goal for Carlos Vinicius at Craven Cottage.
Harvey Barnes and James Maddison — from the penalty spot — scored either side of Willian’s second before Barnes added his second goal in the 89th to cap an end-to-end encounter.
Maddison is one of a slew of top players facing relegation with Leicester and said his team was “not at it.”
“We were not hungry enough to want to win the game,” the England playmaker said.
Jamie Vardy also had a penalty saved for Leicester.
Southampton’s demotion could be confirmed as early as this weekend — even if it beats Fulham on Saturday — because of the results of its relegation rivals.
Taiwo Awoniyi’s double, Morgan Gibbs-White’s penalty and Danilo’s brilliant team goal earned Forest a second straight win at home, and its that form at the City Ground which could keep Steve Cooper’s team up.
Forest is three points above the drop zone with three games to play, against Chelsea, Arsenal and Crystal Palace.
Southampton had goals from Carlos Alcaraz and Lyanco before James Ward-Prowse’s penalty in the sixth minute of stoppage time sparked a tense finish.