Down to the wire

This race is not quite down to the wire as one horse is clearly leading, pic: http://www.bugboy.net/fairgrounds-report/

If things come down to the wire then they remain interesting to the very last moment.

Down to the wire means that something has a close, tense finish; until the last moment the outcome remains uncertain.

The expression comes from horse racing and is commonly used for sporting events, e.g races when two competitors are neck to neck and the very last seconds decide about who wins and who comes in second.

The expression can be used in other contexts as well, for example elections can be down to the wire when two opponents have almost the same number of votes and the last votes to be counted will decide over the outcome (or rather over who will insist on a recount).

The reason things come down to the wire and not the rope, ribbon, or rubber band is that in the early days a wire was stretched across the track in horse races to determine which horse came in first.  Since in horse racing – with lots of money involved in betting – one ideally wants one winner, not several, the wire was carefully observed and whichever horses nose touched the wire first was declared winner.

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