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Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Fri.-Sun., Oct. 24-26)

The Cowboys barely escaped a third straight loss Sunday by getting defensive.

Many potential viewers escaped as well. On a beautiful day for football and numerous other outdoor pursuits, the high-noon win against Tampa Bay amassed 679,532 D-FW homes on Fox4. That's an uptick from the 611,336 homes for last Sunday's collapse in St. Louis. But it's still the second-smallest hometown audience for Dallas' eight regular season games to date.

Next week's Cowboys opponent, the NFC East-leading New York Giants, rallied late to beat the potent Pittsburgh Steelers. That game, also on Fox, drew 404,310 D-FW homes, crunching competition from the opposing Browns-Jaguars game on CBS11 (51,148 homes).

Sunday night's Game 4 of the World Series on Fox, a lopsided 10-2 win by the hometown Phillies, averaged 148,314 total homes in D-FW. That put it third third overall in the 8 to 10 p.m. hours behind CBS' Cold Case (214,333 homes) and The Unit (202,155 homes), and ABC's Desperate Housewives (199,720 homes) and Brothers & Sisters (165,621 homes).

Fittingly striking out was NBC's presentation of The 40-Year-Old Virgin (63,326 homes), which subbed for Sunday Night Football.

The Phillies now are in position to win the Series Monday night. Tampa Bay can stay alive only by taking baseball's biggest showcase back to their home field for a Game 6 Wednesday night.

Saturday's rain-delayed Game 3 of the Series, which didn't start until 9:06 p.m. Dallas time, had 53,583 D-FW homes in tow when it ended at 12:47 a.m. Sunday with a ninth inning Phillies win. Ratings peaked between 10:15 and 10:30 p.m., when the game drew 107,166 homes.

A new edition of NBC's Saturday Night Live had 131,522 homes to dominate the late night ratings.

Earlier Saturday, ABC's down-to-the-wire Texas-Oklahoma State game easily drew the day's largest audience with 253,302 homes. The network's Saturday night attraction, Penn State at Ohio State, corralled 143,700 homes to sweep the prime-time ratings.

In Friday's local news derby, WFAA8 ran first in three of the four big battlegrounds, winning at 10 p.m., 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. in total homes and with 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming.

NBC5 took the golds at 5 p.m., where it's been running strong throughout the fall. Stations begin playing for higher stakes when the four-week November "sweeps" ratings competitions kick off this Thursday.