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Fox, powered by “The Simpsons,” and NBC, led by “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” battled to close demo finishes on Sunday, while a strong showing by “60 Minutes” helped CBS finish on top in overall audience, according to preliminary nationals from Nielsen.

Fox edged out NBC for the night in adults 18-49 as “The Simpsons” (6.1/14 in adults 18-49, 13.4 million viewers overall) easily led the 8 o’clock half-hour, and “Malcolm in the Middle” (5.2/11 in adults 18-49) finished a tick out of the 18-49 lead at 9. At 7:30, though, “King of the Hill,” back in the slot it had occupied prior to this season, grabbed a sub-par 3.5/9 in the demo.

NBC, which moved ahead for the night in women 18-49 and adults 25-54, saw “Law & Order: CI” hit another regular-slot record (5.7/12 in adults 18-49, 15.7 million viewers overall), topping both ABC’s “Alias” and Fox’s full hour of “Malcolm” (4.7/10) by 21%. Net also did well again with “Kingpin,” which led the 10 p.m. hour in 18-49 (4.7/12) over ABC’s “Dragnet” (4.3/11). A special “Fear Factor” at 7 (3.8/10 in adults 18-49) and an original “American Dreams” at 8 (4.1/9) placed second.

ABC struggled with movie “Inspector Gadget” (2.4/6 in adults 18-49, 8.1 million viewers), but “Alias” picked it up at 9. At 10, “Dragnet” (11.7 million viewers overall) was down 10% from its premiere in 18-49 (4.3 vs. 4.8) and placed second for its hour.

CBS’ “60 Minutes,” without newsmag competish from “Dateline,” drew the largest aud for any program on the evening (16.8 million) and won its hour in adults 25-54 (4.8/12). Movie “Profoundly Normal” did OK from 9 to 11 (3.4/8 in adults 18-49, 11.4 million viewers overall), growing throughout its two hours in the demo.

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: Fox, 4.6/11; NBC, 4.5/11; ABC, 3.4/8; CBS, 3.2/8.

In total viewers: CBS, 13.0 million; NBC, 11.4 million; Fox, 10.4 million; ABC, 9.5 million.