Carroll hat-trick wrecks Arsenal dream
Arsenal needed a flawless finish to the English Premier League season to stand a realistic chance of reeling in surprise leaders Leicester City.
Thanks to West Ham striker Andy Carroll, that won't be happening.
Carroll scored an eighth-minute hat-trick as West Ham came from two goals behind and drew 3-3 with Arsenal in a wild match at Upton Park that summed up the visitors' season a strong start, a collapse and then a recovery that was too little, too late.
Surely, only second-placed Tottenham can stop Leicester now.
Arsenal are 10 points behind the leaders and three adrift of Spurs, with the top two in action today.
Arsenal are not yet assured of securing a top-four place and Champions League football for next season, with Manchester City only two points back in fourth after rallying to a 2-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion, thanks to Samir Nasri's second-half winner. City played a weakened team ahead of the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Paris Saint-Germain, which is tied 2-2 after the first leg on Wednesday.
Manchester United are four points behind City, with their game in hand coming against Tottenham today.
Confirmation of Aston Villa's inevitable relegation was delayed at least another week, despite the last-place team losing 2-1 at home to Bournemouth for a 23rd defeat in 33 league matches this season. Fourth-to-last Norwich could have relegated Villa by picking up a point at Crystal Palace, but lost 1-0.
It was Palace's first win since December 19, virtually preserving their Premier League status for another season.
Newcastle look likely to be joining Villa in the second tier after losing 3-1 at Southampton to stay six points behind Norwich, with only six matches left.
"It's important that everybody continues to believe," said Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez, who is still to earn a victory in four matches since taking over. "The anxiety is killing us sometimes."
Swansea beat Chelsea 1-0 thanks to Gylfi Sigurdsson's 25th-minute goal, while Watford and Everton drew 1-1 in a match between two FA Cup semi-finalists.
Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez put Arsenal 2-0 ahead against West Ham, both scoring off passes from young Nigerian Alex Iwobi, before Carroll single-handedly brought the home side back into the game.
Staking his claim for a place in England's squad for the European Championship, the tall striker planted home a powerful header in the 44th, equalised with a deflected volley in first-half injury time, then rose above Arsenal's defence to complete his hat-trick in the 52nd.
Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny scored a 70th-minute equaliser, but a point isn't enough at this stage in the title race.
"We've made it far more difficult for ourselves to have a chance to win the championship," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. "We have to keep going and hope. You never know what can happen."
City trimmed the gap to Arsenal after recovering from going behind to Stephane Sessegnon's goal in the sixth minute.
Sessegnon then brought down Aleksandar Kolarov to allow Sergio Aguero to score from a penalty and Nasri scored the winner for City from close range in the 66th.