Reigning champions Manchester United re-established a one point lead at the top of the English Premier League with a 4-0 victory over Bolton at the Reebok Stadium in Saturday's late match.
United kicked off two points below the summit after Frank Lampard scored four goals in Chelsea's 7-1 thrashing of Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge. It took United, without injured star striker Wayne Rooney, 38 minutes to go ahead through a Jlloyd Samuel own goal.
And it wasn't until 21 minutes from time that United added a second when Dimitar Berbatov, leading the line in Rooney's absence, scored the first of his two goals before substitute Darron Gibson added a fourth in the 82nd minute.
But, either side of Samuel's own-goal, United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar made important saves from Johan Elmander and Fabrice Muamba. "They were absolutely magnificent saves," said United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. "The second one, in particular, I think was a match-winning save."
Earlier, Frank Lampard scored four goals as Chelsea went top of the English Premier League with a 7-1 thrashing of Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. The victory was Chelsea's biggest win of the season, supplanting their 7-2 success over Sunderland, and left the Londoners two points in front of Manchester United.
It also saw England midfielder Lampard take his tally for the season to 21 goals - passing the 150 mark in all for the Blues - while the victory meant Chelsea had scored 12 goals in a week after a 5-0 rout of basement club Portsmouth.
However, reigning English champions United will regain first place if they win away to Bolton Wanderers in Saturday's late kick-off. "It was absolutely outstanding," said Chelsea assistant manager Ray Wilkins about the result before turning to Lampard. "Frank has had a remarkable season, a remarkable career. The guy works so hard in training."
Dejected Villa manager Martin O'Neill had no mercy for his players. "We were well beaten by a fine side. We stopped competing at 3-1 and that's unforgivable. We are devastated and we have to fight back from this," he said.
Arsenal stayed third after dropping points in a 1-1 draw away to Birmingham. Samir Nasri's goal nine minutes from time appeared to have sealed victory for Arsenal only for Kevin Phillips to equalise.
"It's very difficult to play football on this pitch, but we will fight until the end," said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, whose side face Barcelona in the quarter-finals of the Champions League on Wednesday.
Fourth-placed Tottenham maintained their bid for Champions League football next season with a 2-0 win at home to Portsmouth, while Wolves and Everton shared the points in a goalless draw.
Elsewhere, Stoke piled the pressure on West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola with a 1-0 win at Upton Park thanks to striker Ricardo Fuller's 69th minute goal. A second home defeat in a week, their sixth straight loss, left the Hammers above the relegation zone solely on goal difference after fellow strugglers Hull won 2-0 at home to Fulham. "It think it was better than the way we played the other day but it wasn't good enough to win the game. I'm so disappointed," said Zola.
At Stamford Bridge, Lampard gave Chelsea a 15th-minute lead when he struck at the far post following Florent Malouda's centre across the face of goal. But Villa - who face holders Chelsea in next month's FA Cup semi-final - equalised when Norway striker John Carew turned in Ashley Young's cross in the 29th minute.
A minute before half-time Lampard restored Chelsea's lead with a penalty after James Collins tripped Yuri Zhirkov. Malouda then wrapped up the points when the France winger turned in a cross from Zhirkov in the 57th minute. Soon afterwards Lampard had his hat-trick when he scored his second penalty following a foul on Zhirkov by Richard Dunne.
Villa conceded another when Malouda scored his 13th of the season after being played in by Lampard. Salomon Kalou made it 6-1 and there was still time for Lampard to score his fourth goal.
In the other FA Cup semi-final dress rehearsal, between Tottenham and Portsmouth, former Pompey striker Peter Crouch opened the scoring in the 27th minute when he headed in past fellow England international David James.
Spurs doubled their lead four minutes before the break through another Pompey old boy in Niko Kranjcar. Defeat nudged Portsmouth nearer relegation and was made worse by what appeared to be an Achilles injury to defender Hermann Hreidarsson.
"This was a vital win for us, but the injury to Hermann Hreidarsson has put a real dampener on things," said Spurs manager Harry Redknapp, who guided Pompey to the 2008 FA Cup.
Arsenal, whose draw at Birmingham two years ago, in a match where striker Eduardo broke his leg, sparked a meltdown from which their title hopes never recovered, suffered a fresh setback at St Andrew's. Nasri's goal was cancelled out when Phillips levelled in the closing seconds after a mistake by Gunners goalkeeper Manuel Almunia.
Hull's Jimmy Bullard scored against his old club Fulham from the penalty spot in the 16th minute after Jozy Altidore was brought down by Chris Smalling. The Tigers made it 2-0 three minutes after the break when Craig Fagan looped a header over Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.
Liverpool continue their quest for fourth place at home to Sunderland on Sunday when relegation candidates Burnley face Blackburn in a Lancashire derby.