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Everton took over the National Division leadership for the first time this season with victory away to Doncaster Rovers Belles and, in doing so, set up the biggest Premier League match for five years this coming Sunday.
A final score of 3-0 in Everton's favour may look like it was a comfortable three points, but the title chasers were made to work hard for their victory which was only sealed with three very late goals.
The oft used analogy of the league being a marathon and not a sprint applied here where the only sprint came at the end, as 0-0 just before the clock reached 89 minutes became 3-0 by the final whistle (including stoppage time).
The opener came from a corner where the Belles were reprieved by the bar, but only fleetingly as Natasha Dowie then opened with a low 12-yard shot which somehow managed to elude the attempts of several defenders to clear. Three minutes later and it was 2-0 when Fara Williams put in Dowie to slot the ball past Nicola Hobbs from the left angle of the six yard box.
Advance another two and a half minutes and an aerial challenge to the left of the box between Dowie and her former Charlton team mate Natasha Hughes ended with the ball heading goalwards with the last touch possibly coming off the defender, but Dowie got the credit for goal to complete a hat-trick in a little over five minutes of which a good percentage would not have been open play due to celebrations and other stoppages.
For Everton it was their ninth successive clean sheet in the league, but more importantly they improved their points total to give them the advantage of a draw being good enough against Arsenal on Sunday.
Now all attention will be focused on the Stobbart Stadium in Widnes for the showdown where visitors Arsenal, now back in second place and three points behind Everton, have to win to retain their title. The match will be reminiscent of Arsenal's win over Fulham in the final match of the 2003-04 season, where the winners would finish as Champions and a draw would have given Charlton Athletic the trophy.
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