Manchester United shrugged off the absence of Wayne Rooney to defeat Fulham 2-0 at Old Trafford and open up a 10-point lead at the top of the Premier League on Saturday.
United, still furious at the two-match ban handed out to Rooney for swearing, secured all three points thanks to Dimitar Berbatov's 22nd goal of the season and a close-range header from Antonio Valencia.
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson made eight changes from the side which defeated Chelsea 1-0 in the Champions League as he juggled his options ahead of next Tuesday's return leg at Old Trafford.
"It was an important win and at this stage of the season that's the name of the game," Ferguson told Sky Sports.
United's victory keeps the pressure on second-placed Arsenal, who travel to Blackpool on Sunday knowing they can ill-afford any more slip-ups, even with their two games in hand over the leaders.
Chelsea kept alive their remote hopes of overhauling United with a 1-0 victory over Wigan at Stamford Bridge, Florent Malouda scoring the only goal as the Blues remained third, 11 points adrift of United.
But it was another disappointing afternoon for Chelsea's 50 million pound striker Fernando Torres, whose goal drought continued after he appeared as a second-half substitute.
Tottenham -- thrashed 4-0 by Real Madrid in midweek - maintained their push for a place in next season's Champions League with a 3-2 win over Stoke at White Hart Lane to remain in fifth spot.
Peter Crouch bounced back from the disappointment of his red card in the Bernabeu to score twice, with Luka Modric grabbing Spurs' other goal.
Stoke's goals came Matthew Etherington and Kenwyne Jones.
At the other end of the table, Wolves' battle against relegation suffered a setback as Everton romped to a 3-0 victory in the early kick-off at Molineux.
First-half goals from Jermaine Beckford, Phil Neville and Diniya Bilyaletdinov secured all three points for Everton, who remain in seventh spot after extending their unbeaten run to six matches.
But the defeat left Mick McCarthy's Wolves rooted in the relegation mire, with the midlands club second from bottom with only six games remaining.
Birmingham and Blackburn remain three points clear of the relegation zone after grinding out a 1-1 draw at Ewood Park.
Birmingham took the lead through a headed Lee Bowyer effort on 32 minutes only for Blackburn to level on half-time courtesy of David Hoilett.
West Ham missed the chance to pull themselves out of the drop zone after crashing to a 3-0 defeat at Bolton.
Bolton took the lead on 14 minutes with an exquisite strike from Daniel Sturridge, the on-loan Chelsea striker curling a shot from the edge of the area beyond the grasp of West Ham keeper Robert Green.
Lee Chung-Yong made it 2-0 for the Trotters on 20 minutes, heading in at the near post from Martin Petrov's cross before Sturridge grabbed his second.
West Bromwich Albion eased their relegation fears against Sunderland, twice coming from behind to snatch a 3-2 victory at the Stadium of Light as the Baggies revival under Roy Hodgson continued.
Sunderland took the lead courtesy of a Nicky Shorey own goal.
West Brom levelled it through Nigerian striker Peter Odemwingie but Sunderland grabbed the lead again on 31 minutes through Phil Bardsley.
The Baggies got back on level terms however after half-time with Congolese midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu rounding off a well-worked move to score.
Austrian international Paul Scharner then bagged the winner for West Brom on 72 minutes after another flowing move.