LONDON - Theo Walcott scored the fastest goal of the Premier League season as Arsenal beat Queens Park Rangers 1-0 to climb into third place on Saturday, while Wigan boosted their hopes of survival with a resilient 3-2 win at West Bromwich Albion.
Walcott netted after just 20 seconds against relegated QPR at Loftus Road, eclipsing former Arsenal team-mate Robin van Persie, who had scored for Manchester United against West Ham United after 33 seconds in November.
The England forward was denied by QPR goalkeeper Rob Green on three separate occasions as the visitors sought a second goal, but Arsenal were ultimately indebted to their own goalkeeper, Wojciech Szczesny, for a fine late save to thwart Loic Remy. "You can only win your own games and watch what happens elsewhere," said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
"Chelsea play Tottenham on Wednesday and they're at Manchester United tomorrow. Football is unpredictable, but for three months we've been in a position where we cannot drop points."
Victory took Arsenal above both Chelsea, who visit champions Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, who had briefly claimed fourth place after Gareth Bale scored yet another superb goal in a 1-0 win over his former club Southampton.
Bale was this week named the Football Writers' Association Player of the Year, to go with his double success at the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year awards, and he proved his worth once again with his 25th goal of the campaign.
In a game delayed by half an hour due to a nearby motorway closure, Southampton looked set to claim a hard-earned point until Bale struck with four minutes to play.
"I saw the space open up and got a good strike away," explained Bale.
"It is a massive three points and keeps our Champions League hopes alive."
Watford, Brighton and Hove Albion, Crystal Palace and Leicester City will contest the play-offs.