Torres to Liverpool's rescue
© AFP

Fernando Torres kept Liverpool's dream of a first English title in 19 years alive with a stoppage-time winner at Portsmouth on a day that saw Chelsea's title hopes suffer a potentially fatal blow. Rafael Benitez's side twice came from a goal down before Torres, left on the bench until 15 minutes from time, met Yossi Benayoun's cutback with a bullet header to seal a 3-2 win that lifted the Reds a point clear of Manchester United at the top of the table.

The champions have played two games fewer, but the resilience displayed by Liverpool today suggests the title battle is far from over. Liverpool looked destined to drop points for the entire 90 minutes at Fratton Park. Fabio Aurelio's strike cancelled out David Nugent's 62nd-minute goal, but Pompey restored their advantage with only 12 minutes left, thanks to a Hermann Hreidarsson header. But Dirk Kuyt took advantage of some shoddy defending to lash in an 85th-minute equaliser, setting the scene for Torres to floor Tony Adams's side with virtually the last touch of the match.

Chelsea's Premier League title challenge suffered another hammer blow as a goalless draw at home to Hull left Luiz Felipe Scolari's side languishing in fourth place. The Stamford Bridge stalemate meant the Blues have won just two of their last six matches in the league and enabled on-form Aston Villa, 2-0 winners at Blackburn, to leapfrog them into third place. Chelsea have now dropped 16 points at home this season and Scolari was conspicuous in his absence from the post-match inquest in the press room, leaving assistant Ray Wilkins to defend the man who guided Brazil to glory in 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™ .

"People do pay a lot of money to watch football and if they want to boo, then by all means come and boo," Wilkins said. "But to say someone does not know what he is doing, when he has achieved what he has in the game, is a tad out of order."

Meanwhile, Villa continue to go from strength to strength after a club record seventh consecutive away win in the league. James Milner's 27th-minute shot gave Martin O'Neill's side a first-half lead and Gabriel Agbonlahor's deflected shot sealed the points in the final minute.

Brazilian striker Jo had a dream debut for Everton, who followed up their FA Cup win over Liverpool in midweek with a convincing 3-0 win over Bolton. After winning the penalty that enabled Mikel Arteta to put his new club ahead five minutes before the break, Jo opened his Everton account four minutes after the break and then added a last-minute penalty of his own. In one match since he signed on loan from Manchester City, the Brazilian has already scored twice as many goals as he managed in six months at City.

An equally impressive debut by Shay Given helped City pull a little further clear of trouble with a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough at the City of Manchester stadium. Boro enjoyed the better of the chances, but were frustrated by a string of fine saves from the former Newcastle goalkeeper before Craig Bellamy sealed the points for City with a 51st-minute strike. The defeat left Boro mired in the relegation zone and without a win in 13 league games.

Newcastle handed ailing manager Joe Kinnear the perfect tonic with a 3-2 win at West Bromwich Albion. Marc-Antoine Fortune cancelled out Damien Duff's second-minute opener, but the Magpies reclaimed the lead through Danish winger Peter Lovenkrands. Steven Taylor's strike then left them firmly in control at the break. Fortune struck again in the 73rd minute to ensure a tense finale, but Newcastle held on for their first win in seven league matches.

Elsewhere, Wigan's meeting with Fulham ended in a dour goalless stalemate, while Sunderland took another huge step towards securing their top flight status with a 2-0 win over ten-man Stoke City.

Trinidad and Tobago striker Kenwyne Jones settled the contest with 12 minutes left after Stoke's Matthew Etherington was ordered off for kicking at Danny Collins in an off-the-ball incident. David Healy notched Sunderland's second in the final minute.

Second-placed Liverpool face struggling Portsmouth in the day's later match.