97 Dodge Neon Starting Problems

Looking for thoughts on what this might be as Iíve taken it to a couple different shops and really not gotten any improvement.
The Car: 1997 Neon w/ DOHC and ~90k miles
The Problem: Car starts really hard on 5-6th time turning over before it goes, usually with a rough sound and a large smell of exhaust in the car. On a warm start the car starts fine.
My wifeís uncle works for Chrysler told me that priming the engine helps. So, for the past year I stick the key in and turn it to check the gauges and then wait 5-6 sec before trying to start. This seems to help things, but still not a great start and has seemed to lost its effect a little.
Attempts to fix: One place told me it really needed a tune up and decarbonized (?)--seemed to help at first, but a couple days later was back to trouble.
At a oil change one guy got curious (I didnít even tell them about it) and noticed the fuel filter was in bad shape, so we got that replaced. It also did seem to help a little, but a few days later as my wife was driving the car it stalled at a stoplight. Oil and gas leaking all over the place. After hauling it to a dealer we found out that the cap to the fuel filter had come off. I got the oil change place to reimburse me thinking it was there fault, but who knows if it actually was.
It didnít start one day in a cold Wisconsin morning after sitting out for a day or two, so we got AAA to come. He tried an old trick where you press down the accelerator to the floor before trying to start.
So, all of this has made me think that the problem might be some junk in the fuel line. I tried two treatments back to back with fuel line cleaner that you dillute into your gas tank. I didnít really notice any effect (good or bad).
The only other engine problems Iíve noticed is some occasional hesitation on accelerating from a stop (like at a stop light).
Iíve had suggested that it might be a cracked head gasket--but with only problems with starting that doesnít seem right. Any thoughts?
Anyway, Iíve thought of (havenít had checked out yet) bad O2 sensor and maybe getting the fuel line actually checked over.
ANY THOUGHTS OR IDEA WOULD BE APPRECIATED
Thanks, Eric
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bad injectors? plug wires? fuel pump?

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