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Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Thurs., Sept. 27)

Most of us at one time or another have felt the terror of walls closing in on us, or the bottom dropping out.

That's what NBC5 and its once high-rated 10 p.m. newscasts are feeling right now. The station used to coast to big late night news wins after inheriting monster lead-ins from the Peacock network's ER. Sometimes it was enough to offset second place finishes for most of the rest of the week during hotly contested ratings "sweeps" periods.

No more. Saddled with a third-place finish from ER in both total homes and advertiser-favored 25-to-54-year-olds, NBC5 again ran third at 10 p.m. on Thursday night. The new deputy in town -- Belo8's undoubtedly the sheriff -- is CBS11. Its late nighter was a solid runnerup in both measurements for the second straight night after inheriting a big hunka hunka audience for CBS' Without A Trace

Belo8, getting decent support from ABC's new Big Shots, controlled the 10 p.m. terrain with 280,094 total homes and 189,420 viewers in the 25-to-54 demo.

CBS11 had 224,075 total homes and 129,150 viewers of the 25-54 persuasion. NBC5 dragged in at 175,363 homes and 117,670 in the demo. Belo8 was the only station to increase its audience over the 9:45 to 10 p.m. lead-in.

Fox4 remained king of the early mornings, scoring twin wins at 6 a.m. while NBC5 sagged back to third place behind Belo8. The ABC station at least temporarily righted its listing ship at 5 and 6 p.m. with first place finishes across the board.

Thursday's heavyweight prime-time fight, between the season premieres of ABC's Grey's Anatomy and CBS' CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, ended with the sleep-around docs handily beating the forensics experts in both total homes and among 18-to-49-year-olds, the key advertiser target audience for non-news programming.

Neither show was a slouch, though. Grey's had the night's most total homes (345,855) and CSI ranked as the No. 2 draw (302,014).

ABC's season debut of Ugly Betty comfortably won the 7 to 8 p.m. hour in both ratings measurements over CBS' Survivor: China.

It was a split decision from 9 to 10 p.m., with Without A Trace dominating in total homes but being nipped by Big Shots among 18-to-49-year-olds.