Is the battle to avoid relegation going to be closer than many initially thought?

Crystal Palace and Sunderland have shown small signs of promise in recent weeks, do they have enough to survive after being written off?

Given the way the start of the season went, you could be forgiven for thinking that at least one of the sides near the bottom of the table were going through the motions and preparing themselves for life back in the Championship next season.

The other one you could say the plan of hiring so many new players and managerial appointments had also gone awry. But over the past couple of weeks in the Premier League, it looks as though it has closed up just a little at the bottom of the Premier League this season.

Crystal Palace have managed to pick up four points from their last two games without conceding a goal and have now climbed off the bottom of the table whilst Sunderland have had two big home wins ever since Gus Poyet arrived at the new club.

Combined with the fact that Palace have a new manager at the helm in Tony Pulis – from what seemed like two teams who were so lost earlier on in the season, and looked as if they could’ve been relegated by March – they are now both in shooting distance of getting out of the relegation zone with West Ham only three points ahead of them.

After an uncomfortable start to his United career following his £4.5 million summer move to Old Trafford, questions were already being asked of the Italian keeper. So he could have done without this mother of all blunders against the Saints. With United 2-1 up, Southampton’s Matt Le Tissier tried his luck with a 25-yard daisy-cutter. Taibi stooped to gather the ball…and promptly let it squirm its way through his legs and crawl comically over the goal-line. Taibi blamed his studs – he had to blame something. He played just three more games and was promptly shipped out to Reggina the following January.

Fabien Barthez (November 2001: Manchester United v Arsenal)

Actually, the balding Barthez could heave featured for his hand-in-the-air antics against West Ham’s Paolo Di Canio the previous January, but he saved his best blunder for a few months later. This crucial game at Highbury was locked at 1-1 when Barthez mis-hit a clearance straight to Thierry Henry, who slotted Arsenal into the lead with 10 minutes to go. Not content with that error, and clearly keen to give Alex Ferguson a seizure on the touchline, Barthez did it again, fumbling a through-ball and allowing Henry to make it 3-1.

Peter Enckelman (September 2002: BirminghamCity v Aston Villa)

You had to feel sorry for poor old Peter Enckelman, who was actually a very decent goalkeeper for Aston Villa. But a high-octane, live-on-Sky derby against your great rivals is not the best place to showcase your careless streak. But so it was when Olof Mellberg threw the ball back to his keeper, and then watched in horror as Enckelman let the ball roll under his foot and into the net. City went on to win 3-0.

Jerzy Dudek (December 2002: Liverpool v Manchester United)

There seemed little danger when Liverpool centre-back Jamie Carragher stooped to head the ball back to his goalkeeper in the 65th minute of this match. But Dudek had other ideas, choosing instead to fall on the ball and somehow scoop it between his own legs. Diego Forlan was hardly the most lethal of Manchester United strikers, but even he could not miss the resulting open goal from a few yards. And Forlan rubbed salt in the wound a minute later, lashing a second shot past Dudek at his near post to make it 2-0. Despite winning the Champions League a couple of years later, Dudek’s reputation never really recovered from this moment.

Tim Flowers (February 1996: Blackburn v Liverpool)

A little harsh, perhaps, but Tim Flowers’ moment of horror remains as unforgettable as it does comical. Even Stan Collymore turned away in disgust when his tame 25-yarder bumped and bobbled its way towards Flowers in the Blackburn goal. But then the ball hit a divot (which Flowers had made himself a moment earlier), and bounced up over the flailing keeper’s shoulder into the net. Collymore’s face said it all, as did Sky’s Martin Tyler in his commentary: “Clean bowled – Tim Flowers!”