Chelsea eased to a 4-1 home victory over Wigan, while Tottenham and Arsenal also registered wins as the battle for a Champions League qualification spot gathered pace.
Rafa Benitez has been under pressure, and his record at Stamford Bridge was the chief cause, but the Spaniard oversaw a much improved performance from his side as they saw off a late Wigan rally to take all three points.
Goals from Ramires, Eden Hazard, Frank Lampard and Marko Marin helped Chelsea over the line, although Shaun Maloney briefly made it tense.
Benitez opted to rest Juan Mata – the Spaniard on the bench. And the Blues took a first-half lead through Ramires, before doubling it shortly after the break. But Maloney struck straight back for the Lactics two minutes after Hazard's strike.
Still, Lampard made the game safe with 15 minutes to play, before substitute Marko Marin put some gloss on the result with Chelsea’s fourth.
Elsewhere Tottenham edged a tight encounter at White Hart Lane – a Gareth Bale double helping Andre Villas-Boas’s side to a 2-1 victory over Newcastle.
The Welshman scored a Cristiano Ronaldo-style free-kick five minutes in, but Yoann Gouffran– a January signing for Alan Pardew – levelled the score after 22 minutes.
Gareth Bale would not be denied, however, the former-Southampton star in inspired form, and it was fitting that he scored the winner – capitalising on some sloppy defending before racing clear to put Spurs 2-1 ahead.
Arsenal held on at the Stadium of Light to record a vital 1-0 away win. Santi Cazorla with the only goal of the game in the first half. The Gunners dominated the opening 45 minutes, but it looked like they would pay for their profligacy when Carl Jenkinson saw red for a second yellow card.
Aaron Ramsey moved to right-back, and Arsenal weathered a second-half Sunderland storm to hold on for all three points.
Elswhere, Reading’s fine recent run came to an end at the Britannia Stadium – Stoke running out 2-1 winners. While at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea piled on the misery for Harry Redknapp, chalking up a 4-1 win over Queens Park Rangers.
The day’s other three o’clock kick-off, Fulham versus Norwich, ended as a goalless draw.
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