THERE was a photo finish in the Grand National, but in the race for European football Burnley put an extra furlong between them and nearest challengers Leicester City.

Sean Dyche has played down talk of the Europa League in public - certainly in press conferences - but the Clarets boss may not be able to avoid the subject for much longer.

Anyone who doubted whether Burnley could maintain seventh spot, with Leicester breathing down their necks, had the record set straight with the breathless start they made to the game.

No sooner had Chris Wood made it 1-0 with his 10th goal as a Claret, Kevin Long doubled the lead with his first of the season and first in the league, with both goals coming inside the first nine minutes.

Not even Jamie Vardy's 20th of the campaign for the Foxes could stop the Turf Moor faithful reaching for their passports with Nick Pope and his back four as resolute as ever, before and after the England international's strike, to secure a win that strengthened their grip on seventh spot by nine points.

Burnley have not played in Europe since the 1966-67 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, which went on to become the UEFA Cup.

But having won five Premier League games on the bounce - a first in the top flight since November 1968 - they are in the process of re-writing their own history.

There are 15 points still to play for. Dyche will be the first to stress that. But it looks increasingly as though Southampton winning the FA Cup is the only thing that can stop Burnley from embarking on a European adventure.

Not only that, there is the world stage to consider.

Gareth Southgate has become a regular in the Turf Moor director's box, and he was treated to another man of the match performance from goalkeeper Pope, while James Tarkowski gave a good account of himself too as the England boss finalises preparations and personnel for this summer's World Cup in Russia.

A New Zealander and an Irishman did the damage at the other end.

The strike partnership between Ashley Barnes and Wood is about more than just the goals the duo can get, there is an understanding between them too as the build up to the opening goal showcased.

Barnes received the ball from Jack Cork, after good work by the midfielder, and turned to lay a reverse ball perfectly into the path of Wood, who converted at the second attempt after Kasper Schmeichel saved his initial shot with his legs.

Three minutes later, the fit-again Johann Berg Gudmundsson sent a corner to the far left post where an unmarked Long headed home for Burnley's third set piece goal in two games.

That's when Pope came into play.

When Leicester tried to hit back the Clarets keeper was well positioned to ensure an awkward deflection when Riyad Mahrez shot did not catch him out.

But it was his save from the Algerian ace's punched header that caught the eye and brought the Clarets out of a spell of Foxes pressure after the half-hour.

Vardy, who had steered an earlier header wide, then sent one straight at Pope, but the former Charlton man must be credited for good positioning, unlike Mahrez, who placed a free kick wide with the last kick of the half.

The Foxes came out fighting after the break, but Burnley still had their moments too.

Gudmundsson and Barnes saw ambitious efforts clear the bar, while penalty appeals for handball and what looked a foul on Aaron Lennon were waved away.

Pope saved expertly from Vardy, low down to his right, but you sensed that the former Fleetwood man would see his persistence pay off.

A run through the middle by half-time substitute Kelechi Iheanacho provided an opportunity for Vardy with only Pope to beat, and he duly smashed it into the roof of the net.

Burnley needed to hang on.

They did. And in closing the gap to Arsenal to two points - until this afternoon at least - with a game at the Emirates to come next month they might even start considering a chance to break into the top six.