Manchester City were edged closer to the relegation zone by a 3-1 defeat at home to Southampton on a day when attention shifted to the painful end of the Premiership table.
With Blackburn and Portsmouth both winning today, City – who welcomed Kevin Keegan’s return to the dug-out after a four-match absence with a back complaint - emerged as the side the bottom three will hope to catch.
James Beattie put the Saints in front after 34 minutes, the England international heading home a cross from Marian Pahars, who was newly returned to the line-up after two months out injured.
And the visitors doubled their lead 10 minutes into the second half when Kevin Phillips headed in.
Nicolas Anelka pulled a goal back after 78 minutes but Phillips netted his second to restore Southampton’s two-goal lead.
Basement side Wolves, who started the day nine points from safety, proved they were still alive and kicking as they beat Middlesbrough 2-0.
Carl Cort put them ahead in the 28th minute, heading in Mark Clyde’s cross from the right and Henri Camara netted a second after 62 minutes.
Middlesbrough have designs on Europe but the defeat could have been more convincing as Mark Schwarzer saved a late penalty from Camara.
There was also good news for Blackburn, who inflicted a 1-0 defeat on fellow relegation-battlers Leicester thanks to a first-half own-goal from Foxes defender Nikos Dabizas.
Manchester United all but said goodbye to their title after they went down 1-0 at Portsmouth in an early kick-off at Fratton Park.
With Arsenal moving 13 points ahead of the Red Devils by hammering Leeds 5-0 last night, Alex Ferguson’s side looked very far from the Gunners’ class as they failed to keep pace with their rivals.
Veteran midfielder Steve Stone, 33, scrambled home the only goal of the game to earn Portsmouth their first win over United in 47 years.
The result opened the door for Chelsea to buttress their claims to second place which offers an automatic Champions League slot rather than the possibility of a qualifying tie.
But Claudio Ranieri’s side, England’s sole surviving Champions League representatives this season, could take no immediate advantage as they were held to a goalless draw by Everton despite dominating the second half.
Edwin van der Sar saved a Steven Gerrard penalty in the second half of Fulham’s 0-0 draw at Liverpool, a result which will do little to help the Anfield side’s Champions League bid.
However, Birmingham and Charlton – two other sides with ambitions to play in Europe’s premier club competition – played out a 1-1 draw at the Valley.
Clinton Morrison gave the visitors an 84th-minute lead but Matt Holland equalised for Charlton two minutes later.
Ivan Campo swept home Jay-Jay Okocha’s cross to give Bolton a seventh-minute lead over Tottenham which was doubled by Henrik Pedersen in the 65th minute in the only Premiership game to have little riding on the outcome today.