Arsenal’s Barclays Premier League victory over Newcastle ensured they beat north London rivals Tottenham to the last Champions League place despite a late blockbuster from Gareth Bale on the final day of the season.
With the title already secured by Manchester United and relegation matters settled in midweek, the settling of European issues was the main focus of the day.
A 1-0 win for Arsenal at St James’ Park saw Arsene Wenger continue his proud record of Champions League qualification in every season at the club, but Tottenham ensured a nailbiting finale when the irrepressible Bale fired Spurs ahead with a glorious 25-yard strike in the closing seconds.
A Newcastle equaliser in the dying seconds against Arsenal would have seen Spurs leapfrog their rivals into fourth but it never materialised.
Chelsea, who started the day with the chance of a play-off with the Gunners for third place, avoided that fate with a 2-1 home win over Everton.
And on a day where 36 goals were scored in the top flight, Sir Alex Ferguson saw 10 of them in his final game before retirement as champions Manchester United drew 5-5 in a breathless encounter with West Brom.
Arsenal fought out a first-half stalemate against Newcastle but grabbed the all-important winning goal in the 52nd minute when Laurent Koscielny hooked home from close range following a free-kick from the right.
Tottenham saw strong penalty appeals turned down, shots cleared off the line and woodwork rattled before Bale – who had earlier been booked for diving when he looked to have been fouled in the area – curled in a sensational winner following David Vaughan’s red card.
Yet it was not enough and they now go into the Europa League.