Harry Kane’s contentious penalty in first-half stoppage time edged Tottenham past Burnley with a 1-0 victory – to move two points clear of rivals Arsenal in fourth spot.
Spurs were frustrated in front of goal for most of the match, with Antonio Conte’s side missing a host of chances as Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope was busy throughout.
But their breakthrough came very late in the first half as VAR assisted Kevin Friend in declaring Ashley Barnes had handled while trying to clear a corner, leaving Kane to blast past Pope in the eighth minute of added time. The decision to award the spot-kick was contentious, with Barnes having little time to react to the ball, though his arm was outstretched.
The result means Arsenal must win away at Newcastle in their Monday Night Football clash, live on Sky Sports, to move ahead of Conte’s Spurs – or relinquish the initiative in the race for the Champions League ahead of next Sunday’s final day.
Conte’s team charged after the fourth-placed spot they wanted with a flurry of early chances to keep Pope busy.
Heung-Min Son got the ball back from a short corner and whipped an effort towards the near post which the Burnley goalkeeper got down well to meet. The England goalkeeper also had to be equal to Kane’s close-range header from inside the box and Ben Davies’ tame effort.
Kane was then once again denied an opener in spectacular fashion, with defender Nathan Collins acrobatically hooking the Spurs striker’s header off the line, with Pope nowhere near the looping effort.
Burnley were camped in their half for most of the opening period but suddenly created the best chance of the half out of nowhere. Collins carried the ball into the Tottenham half and released Maxwel Cornet through on goal.
The Ivory Coast international opened up his body but Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris produced a big save to deny a goal very much against the run of play.
Tottenham were stunned by Burnley’s emergence from nowhere and became desperate in their play as the half ended. Kane and Rodrigo Bentancur flashed difficult chances wide of the goal – but then came their moment.
After Kane flashed a glorious chance wide from inside the box, VAR informed referee Friend that Barnes had handled in the box while competing with Bentancur. The on-pitch official quickly gave the spot-kick after referring to the pitchside monitor, leaving Kane to blast past Pope from 12 yards.
Burnley caretaker coach Mike Jackson was suddenly forced to change his half-time team talk and his side came out all guns blazing after half-time.
Both Collins and Kevin Long headed wide from Dwight McNeil free-kicks in the opening minutes of the half, but their best opportunity came after the hour mark. McNeil fed Barnes around 20 yards out and the Clarets striker fired a fierce effort onto the outside of Lloris’ post.
As the game became stretched, Tottenham had more chances. Kane fired over from the edge of the box, while Pope was required to keep both Bentacur and Son out in quick succession – the latter of those chances being a strong right glove to deny the South Korea forward from close range.
Despite Burnley bringing on Wout Weghorst and Aaron Lennon to boost their attack, Spurs continued to push for a second, with Pope needing to be equal to Son’s effort after he fired a fierce drive towards his midriff.
Conte was able to gee up the crowd in the final few minutes to create a fervent atmosphere, as Spurs got over the line to secure a vital victory in their top-four chase.
Analysis: Conte and Spurs in the perfect place (almost)
Sky Sports’ Sam Blitz at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium:
There was a moment towards the end of this game which hinted Antonio Conte and Tottenham may be a good fit after all.
Seventy-eight minutes were on the clock, Conte turned to the Tottenham fans behind him and gesticulated them to make more noise. The Spurs fans responded – and the decibel count went through the roof.
Suddenly, everyone involved with Tottenham was determined to get them over the line. Every tackle was roared on by the Spurs fans. Every time Hugo Lloris held the ball in safety, it was just like a goal had gone in. When Kevin Friend was delaying the full-time whistle, everyone – players, fans, Conte – were gesticulating as one – just the Italian did around 20 minutes before.
Now, with Spurs in front in the top-four race, Daniel Levy promising summer funds and the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium producing a cauldron of noise on a regular basis – are these the key elements needed to bring Spurs back to life? They are certainly on the right track.
It was by no means pretty from Spurs. It was almost the opposite of Thursday night’s derby win over Arsenal where they were controlling and clinical.
Burnley came with a game plan and executed it to perfection – their back three once again unsettled this Spurs team, just like it did against Wolves, Brentford and Brighton as Conte’s side failed to score in those three games.
But Tottenham still found a way to win, despite missing a host of chances and finding Nick Pope in fine form. That’s all that matters. Performances come in second place at this stage of the season.
But Spurs are by no means there. Coming back into the tunnel after full-time, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg appeared to gesture a sense of calm. Arsenal could still beat Newcastle on Monday Night Football and take back the initiative with one game to go, which would make all these celebrations for nothing.
Meanwhile, for Burnley, they showed enough at the back – with Pope and Nathan Collins impressing – to justify enough of a reason to stay up. But is it too little too late?
Burnley travel to Aston Villa in the Premier League on Thursday at 8pm. On the final day of the Premier League season, Tottenham visit relegated Norwich, while Burnley host Newcastle on Sunday at 4pm.