Arsenal and Manchester City responded like title contenders on Saturday after John Terry had scored an injury-time winner against Everton to give momentarily gave Chelsea a four-point lead at the top of the table.
But Arsenal and City bounced back from disappointing midweek performances in the Champions League as Arsenal overwhelmed Sunderland 4-1 and City edged Stoke City 1-0.
Terry’s last-gasp winner allowed Chelsea to hold onto top spot as they snatched a 1-0 victory against Everton at Stamford Bridge.
With Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard in sparkling form, Chelsea looked set to drop points until Terry marked his return to the team after a three-game absence by toeing home a Frank Lampard free-kick in the 93rd minute.
Terry’s strike was a bitter blow for an enterprising Everton side, who squandered an opportunity to close the eight-point gap that currently separates them from fourth-place Liverpool.
Arsenal had been outclassed by Bayern Munich in midweek, but the responded in style against a very poor Sunderland side
Olivier Giroud was restored to the starting line-up and he responded with a pair of goals in the first 31 minutes. Giroud also played a role in the glorious move that led to Tomas Rosicky chipping in Arsenal’s third goal before half-time, with Laurent Koscielny heading home a fourth in the 57th minute.
Emanuele Giaccherini claimed a late consolation for Gus Poyet’s side, who face City in next weekend’s League Cup final.
Manchester City are three points back with a game in hand after beating a battling Stoke side 1-0. Manuel Pellegrini’s side toiled in front of goal against Stoke at the Etihad Stadium and there was a sense of relief when Yaya Toure broke the deadlock from Aleksandar Kolarov’s cut-back in the 70th minute.
Robin van Persie opened the scoring at Selhurst Park with a 62nd-minute penalty and then Wayne Rooney doubled United’s lead six minutes later, slamming a half-volley into the top-right corner.
Meanwhile, Felix Magath saw victory snatched from his grasp in his first game as Fulham manager after a 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion.
Fulham were on course to climb off the foot of the table thanks to Ashkan Dejagah’s 28th-minute goal, only for Matej Vydra to plunder an 86th-minute equaliser with a shot that squirmed past Maarten Stekelenburg.
Vydra’s goal meant that Cardiff City remained second from bottom after they were crushed 4-0 at home by Hull City, who prevailed through a Nikica Jelavic brace and strikes from Tom Huddlestone and Nikica Jelavic.
Hull are now six points above the relegation zone and West Ham United are a point better off in tenth place after goals from Matt Jarvis, Carlton Cole and Kevin Nolan set up a 3-1 win at home to Southampton.