Pienaar scores in thriller
Steven Pienaar on the scoresheet (AFP)
Birmingham - Aston Villa's bid to qualify for the Champions League looks over despite a superb second half fightback to draw 3-3 against Everton on Sunday.
Martin O'Neill's side needed a win to close the gap on fourth-placed Arsenal but in the end they were grateful for a point at Villa Park after trailing 3-1 early in the second half.
Goals from Marouane Fellaini and Tim Cahill put Everton in control before John Carew got one back for the hosts.
Steven Pienaar looked to have won it for David Moyes's visitors but Villa salvaged a draw through James Milner's free-kick and a Gareth Barry penalty.
Although Villa deserve credit for their spirited revival, which stopped a run of four successive defeats, O'Neill's team are now eight points behind Arsenal with just six games to play.
After a long spell in the top four, Villa have lost form at the wrong time and are likely to end up alongside sixth placed Everton in the UEFA Cup - soon to be renamed the Europa League - next season.
Villa did most of the early pressing and Ashley Young won a free-kick by tricking Leon Osman, only for the England winger to blaze the set-piece well over.
After a slow start, Everton hit their stride and Brad Friedel had to be alert to tip over a rising half-volley from Phil Neville after a corner from Leighton Baines had only been half cleared.
Moyes' team took the lead in the 19th minute as Fellaini claimed his eighth goal of the campaign.
Villa made a hash of clearing as Jo tried to link up with Baines, who was gifted a chance to whip in a low cross that Fellaini, just onside, stroked home from close range.
Everton kept up the pressure and South African midfielder Pienaar curled a shot just wide, then Cahill forced Friedel into a smart stop.
O'Neill's men cracked again after 23 minutes as Cahill grabbed his ninth goal of the season.
The Australian met Pienaar's corner with a thumping header that hit the bar and bounced just in front of the goalline. Cahill was first to react and headed the rebound past Friedel.
Villa were in disarray and it took a brave save from Friedel, diving at the feet of Cahill, to keep the score down.
Just as Everton looked like taking over completely, Carew gave Villa a lifeline with his 13th goal of the campaign.
Milner's centre was deflected back across goal by Barry and, with keeper Tim Howard stranded, Gabriel Agbonlahor's touch found Carew, who made no mistake from close range.
Villa's hopes of a revival looked dead and buried in the 53rd minute when a superb strike from Pienaar restored Everton's two goal advantage.
Neville played the ball into Pienaar's feet and he turned away from Luke Young before curling his shot past Friedel.
As if that wasn't bad enough, Agbonlahor limped out of the action to be replaced by Nathan Delfouneso moments later.
But Milner gave Villa a lifeline with a superb free-kick in the 55th minute. Lescott fouled Carew 25 yards out and Milner's perfectly-placed set-piece gave Howard no chance.
Suddenly, Villa had a new spring to their play and they snatched an equaliser in the 66th minute.
Lescott caught Stiliyan Petrov in the face while trying to clear with a bicycle kick and referee Howard Webb awarded a penalty.
Moyes was furious but Barry stepped up to blast home the penalty and give Villa a share of the spoils.