SAINTS 4 - NORWICH 3

Daily Echo: WORTH THE WAIT: Graeme Le Saux hammers in his first ever Premiership goal for Saints. Echo picture by Paul Collins WORTH THE WAIT: Graeme Le Saux hammers in his first ever Premiership goal for Saints. Echo picture by Paul Collins

WHAT next? Just when it seems like Saints are down and out, they produce out of nowhere a win and a display of such spirit and commitment that underlined a burning desire to avoid the drop.

Having taken such a thumping at Portsmouth and been so abject six days previously, there was one of two ways the season could go.

Either they rolled over, curled up and died ... or they salvaged some pride and got going again.

Thankfully, it was the latter.

And in no small part it was also down to the St Mary's crowd.

They had felt so angry after last week's performance against their local rivals. They were hurting and they had been scathing of the players for putting them through it.

But there was no hint of recriminations or finger pointing. Instead, just rousing support.

The stands were red and white, the atmosphere incredible and the noise unbelievable.

Never has St Mary's enjoyed an atmosphere like this one.

There's no doubt it helped a team who were surely worried about what sort of reception they'd get after last week's debacle.

However, one note of warning amidst the triumphalism: the relegation battle is still far from over.

Saints are level on points with Palace and only one ahead of Norwich and West Brom, with the latter having a game in hand tonight.

Saturday was not the day Saints sealed their place in the Premiership for a 28th successive campaign.

It was the day they gave themselves a chance of doing it.

Even a draw was unthinkable, a point would have made it hard to imagine survival being possible.

Which is what made this game all the more incredible.

Anybody wondering why Norwich and Saints were in the bottom four got the perfect answer.

The defending was at times horiffic.

But both sides have players that can score goals.

And both showed they have the desire and passion to stay up and be in there fighting when May 15 dawns.

Saints could hardly have got off to a worse start when Norwich took the lead after just three minutes.

Leon McKenzie lifted the ball to the far post where David Bentley came steaming in to finish.

But just five minutes later Saints were level when Nigel Quashie broke down the centre and picked out the run of Matt Oakley, who finished across Robert Green and into the far corner - his first Premiership goal for almost three years (since Derby on May 6, 2002).

There was hardly time to draw breath before Dean Ashton smashed a shot against the Saints post and Green had turned a Jamie Redknapp free-kick round the post.

Just when you thought the game might quieten down, Saints scored again - Peter Crouch finishing superbly from Rory Delap's cross for his 12th goal in 18 league and cup games and his 15th of the season The first half continued at quite a pace, both going hell for leather with defences creaking to the point of total collapse.

It was 2-2 when Darren Huckerby left Delap for dead and squared into the area where Danny Higginbotham diverted the ball into his own net.

Antti Niemi then saved from Bentley before Saints went 3-2 up on 39 minutes.

Graeme Le Saux controlled a great Nigel Quashie lay-off and volleyed in from the edge of the area - direct football at it's best.

There was still time for more drama before the interval whistle sounded as McKenzie got in behind Andreas Jakobsson to make it 3-3 with the last kick of a sensational half.

Harry Redknapp made two half-time changes to the defence with Claus Lundekvam and Paul Telfer replacing Jakobsson and Delap and adding much needed solidity.

The second 45 minutes was a battle of the keepers with Niemi and Green both pulling off a string of incredible saves while other chances went begging.

It didn't seem, however, as if it would be Saints' day.

But with only two minutes left, late sub Henri Camara picked up the ball and decided to pull the trigger from 20 yards.

It was a sliding doors moment. Either it would go harmlessly wide and Saints would go down.

Or it would rocket into the bottom corner and send St Mary's wild.

It was the latter and Saints live to fight another day.

They're not out of the woods just yet - but it's a damn sight better than being dead and buried.

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