Manchester United beat West Brom 2-0 to maintain their seven-point lead over second-placed Manchester City, who scraped to a 4-3 win at Norwich City.
United went ahead at Old Trafford in the ninth minute against Albion when Gareth McAuley inadvertently knocked the ball into his own goal after Ashley Young drove a low cross across the face of goal.
For most of the second half, West Brom were camped it the United half, but with Vidic and Evans outstanding, David De Gea was barely tested. Then late on, substitute Robin van Persie curled a glorious shot into the top-left corner in the last minute to wrap up all three points.
Manchester City had Samir Nasri sent-off in the first-half at Norwich, but 10-man City edged an open-ended encounter thanks to Edin Dzeko, who scored twice and might have had a hat-trick. The Bosnian, who has had to become accustomed to a role on the substitutes’ bench this season, struck twice inside the opening four minutes to put the visitors control at Carrow Road.
But Norwich hit back through a deflected Anthony Pilkington free-kick, and the visitors were then dealt a blow when Nasri was sent off for aiming a head-butt at Sebastien Bassong.
Sergio Aguero’s deft, lobbed finish restored City’s two-goal cushion in the 50th minute and although Russell Martin headed in for Norwich, Dzeko made it 4-2 when his shot hit the post and bounced in off Norwich goalkeeper Mark Bunn. Martin scored again with 15 minutes to go, prodding in from close range after City failed to clear a corner, but Roberto Mancini’s men were able to hang on.
Aston Villa’s miserable holiday season continued as they were beaten 3-0 at home by Wigan Athletic. Goals from Ivan Ramis, Emmerson Boyce and Arouna Kone sank put Paul Lambert’s young team, who have now conceded 15 goals in the last week.
Villa would have slipped into the relegation zone had third-bottom Southampton not been thrown away a two goal lead at Stoke. Southampton had led 3-1, and played against ten men following the 71st-minute dismissal of Steven N’Zonzi, but they were denied the three points thanks to a sensational 25-yard strike from Cameron Jerome.
In the early game, Tottenham came back from a 1-0 half-time deficit to win 2-1 at Sunderland. Andre Villas-Boas’ side have taken 19 points from a possible 24 and are now a point above third-place Chelsea, who have two games in hand and visit Everton on Sunday.
Finally, Reading got a rare win, beating West Ham 1-0, while Fulham’s dismal form continued, meanwhile, as they lost 2-1 at home to Swansea City.