Liverpool took another step towards a first league title since 1990 after winning 3-2 at Norwich City on Sunday to pull five points clear at the top of the English Premier League. Quick-fire early goals from Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez put the visitors in control at Carrow Road, before Gary Hooper replied for fourth-bottom Norwich in the 54th minute.
Sterling appeared to have made the points safe with a deflected shot minutes later, but a late Robert Snodgrass header obliged Liverpool to endure a nervy last ten minutes. It was Liverpool's 11th consecutive league victory and means that they are guaranteed to qualify for next season's UEFA Champions League, but Brendan Rodgers's side now have a bigger prize in their sights.
They need seven points from their remaining three games to win the league and can eliminate Chelsea from the title race by winning at home to Jose Mourinho's side next weekend. Chelsea's shock 2-1 defeat at home to Sunderland on Saturday, coupled with Manchester City's draw against the same side in mid-week, had given Liverpool a huge opportunity to stamp their authority on the title race.
Rodgers was without the injured Daniel Sturridge and the suspended Jordan Henderson, but his side swiftly set about settling their supporters' nerves by taking the lead in the fourth minute. Sterling collected the ball 30 yards from goal, shifted it inside Bradley Johnson, and then unleashed a 25-yard drive that flew inside the left-hand post via a slight deflection off Michael Turner.
After Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy had saved from Joe Allen, Suarez made it 2-0 in the 11th minute, steering a delightfully weighted left-foot cross from Sterling into the bottom-right corner. It was the Uruguayan's 12th goal in his last five appearances against Norwich and made him the first Liverpool striker to score 30 league goals in a season since Ian Rush in 1987.
Norwich began to assert themselves, however, and nine minutes into the second half they pulled a goal back. Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet met Steven Whittaker's deep cross with a weak punch that bounced off Martin Skrtel and into the path of Hooper, who tapped into the unguarded goal.
Momentarily Liverpool looked vulnerable, but in the 62nd minute Sterling restored their two goal-advantage. After picking up the ball inside his own half, the 19-year-old drove into the Norwich box and dispatched a left-foot shot that took a cruel deflection off Johnson and looped over Ruddy.
Snodgrass hit back for Norwich in the 77th minute, outjumping Jon Flanagan to head home Martin Olsson's left-wing cross, but Liverpool held on for victory.
Arsenal welcomed Mesut Ozil back from a hamstring injury and he played a part in the 31st-minute move that led to Aaron Ramsey drilling the visitors in front. In response, Hull midfielder Tom Huddlestone drove a low shot against the post, only for Lukas Podolski to emphatically volley home Arsenal's second goal just before half-time from Ramsey's chested lay-off.
Podolski claimed his second goal in the 54th minute, tucking away the rebound after Hull goalkeeper Allan McGregor had blocked from the irrepressible Ramsey. The victory provisionally put Arsenal four points clear of fifth-place Everton, but Roberto Martinez's side trimmed their lead back to a point with a clinical 2-0 defeat of Manchester United.
It was United manager David Moyes's first visit to Goodison Park since he left to succeed Alex Ferguson last year and it was to prove a chastening one, as his side fell to their 11th defeat of a dismal campaign. Leighton Baines, a one-time United target, put Everton ahead from the penalty spot in the 28th minute after Phil Jones had blocked a shot with his hand and Kevin Mirallas added a second shortly before half-time.
The result leaves Manchester United unable to reach fourth by the end of the season, meaning the Red Devils will not compete in the 2014/15 Champions League season, the first time missing out since 1995/96.