HUDDERSFIELD TOWN’S survival hopes suffered a setback with defeat to Everton.
Goals from Cenk Tosun and Idrissa Gueye sealed a deserved victory for the Merseysiders, who with steadier finishing could have won by a convincing margin.
Town’s woes were added to by Southampton beating Bournemouth to cut the gap between the two clubs to three points.
With Saints having a superior goal difference, David Wagner’s men are likely to need a win from the daunting final trio of games against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal.
To do so, they will have to perform better than this. After a bright start that saw Town’s pressing game unsettle the visitors, Town faded badly and could have little complaint at the result.
Tosun’s strike six minutes before the break proved to be the game-changing moment. A loose pass left Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen exposed and Theo Walcott scampered forward before finding Tosun, who drilled a lot shot past Jonas Lossl.
Seamus Coleman wasted two gilt-edged opportunities to put the game to bed. First, he made a total hash of converting a Leighton Baines free-kick despite being unmarked and onside six yards out.
Then, after latching on to a deft pass from Nikola Vlasic, Coleman was unable to beat Lossl.
Such profligacy, however, did not prove costly with Gueye doubling the visitors’ lead 12 minutes from time.
Collecting a pass from Baines, Gueye drilled the ball beyond Lossl to clinch a league double over the Yorkshire club for Sam Allardyce’s men.
Town did have chances with Rajiv Van la Parra firing narrowly over in the first half and Alex Pritchard making a total hash of an excellent opening after the restart.
But the attacking spark required to put Everton under concerted pressure was missing to leave Town’s Premier League status seriously under threat.
What Town were desperate to avoid when the fixtures came out last summer has become reality.
A trip to Manchester City and a home game with Arsenal that now sandwich tackling Chelsea at Stamford Bridge is a tough final week.
Huddersfield had been hoping to embark on that trio of fixtures with safety within touching distance but now there is work to do.
Boss David Wagner admitted it had been a missed opportunity for his side, who are now two points above the drop zone with three games remaining against champions Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal.
"When we all meet up again next week I will lift everybody and makes us ready," said Wagner, who feels the 35 points his side have will not be enough.
"We wanted to do it (guarantee safety) today. We haven't done it. But we have shown and we have worked for two-and-a-half years on doing the impossible.
"Now we have a week in front of us, a difficult task, but we know it is possible, especially for a team like us, to steal some points and this is exactly our aim."