Saints march on, Leeds undone
Southampton kept their npower Championship promotion charge going on Boxing Day with a fairly routine victory over Crystal Palace, while elsewhere Leeds' play-off hopes took another dent away at Derby.
Table-topping Southampton temporarily moved four points clear of their nearest rivals with a 2-0 triumph over Palace. Guly do Prado was the Saints hero with two goals, scoring in either half against the Carling Cup semi-finalists.
The Brazilian attacker twice netted with his head to stretch Saints' unbeaten league run at St Mary's to 24 matches in front of a sold-out crowd.
Derby's recent dominance of Leeds continued at Pride Park as Jamie Ward's second-half goal was enough to earn the Rams a sixth straight win over their Yorkshire rivals, who were beaten 1-0. Ward was on hand to convert after his initial 67th-minute shot had been parried by Andy Lonergan and, with Leeds unable to respond, Nigel Clough's men hung on for what was just a second win in nine and a first clean sheet in 15.
Reading moved into the top six at the expense of Leeds with a comfortable 3-0 win over Brighton. Two first-half goals from Jobi Anuff set up an easy afternoon for the Royals, who added a third in injury-time when Adam El-Abd diverted into his own net.
The battle of third versus fourth went Middlesbrough's way as Hull finally collapsed to a 1-0 defeat at the Riverside Stadium. Boro were the better side for long periods, and Barry Robson found a winner three minutes from time.
Cardiff earned a point on manager Malky Mackay's return to Watford as a moment of madness from home goalkeeper Scott Loach saw their clash finish 1-1 at Vicarage Road. The Bluebirds dominated for large parts of the contest but fell behind to Prince Buaben's second-half strike before Loach's ill-judged attempt to clear a long throw-in ended with Adrian Mariappa turning the ball into his own net.
Play-off chasing Blackpool secured all three points with a 3-1 win away at Barnsley. Matt Phillips cancelled out Matt Done's opener in the first half, and then the same player completed the turnaround with another two to complete his hat-trick in the second half.
Leicester suffered a woeful start as they drew 1-1 with Ipswich at the King Power Stadium. The Foxes conceded a penalty and conceded inside the first four minutes, Kasper Schmeichel saving Michael Chopra's spot-kick before seeing Lee Bowyer find the net from six yards in a separate Ipswich attack. Paul Gallacher rescued a point for Leicester in the second half, converting a penalty after Jason Scotland handled.
Bottom club Coventry secured only their third win of the season, beating Bristol City 1-0 at the Ricoh Arena. Gary Deegan came off the bench to score with 18 minutes left, breathing new life into the Sky Blues' survival bid.
Struggling Nottingham Forest are now in the relegation zone after they slumped to a 1-0 defeat to Peterborough on home soil. George Boyd opened the scoring for the visitors following a flowing Peterborough move, and that proved enough for all three points.
Doncaster also show no signing of dragging their way out of trouble after a 3-0 loss to Burnley at Turf Moor. Jay Rodriguez's penalty opened the scoring, before Martin Paterson killed the visitors off with six minutes remaining, with Sam Hird's own goal completing a miserable day for Dean Saunders' men.
And Dany N'Guessan's first Championship goal of the season secured a 1-0 victory for lowly Millwall against Portsmouth. The summer signing from Leicester made the most of a rare chance in the starting line-up with the winner nine minutes from time, bringing to an end Pompey's mini-revival under their new manager Michael Appleton - they were unbeaten in their previous four matches.
In the day's late game, West Ham owners David Sullivan and David Gold were denied the perfect post-Christmas present on their return to former club Birmingham. The Hammers joint-chairmen were back at St Andrew's together for the first time since selling to Carson Yeung in November 2009 and subsequently taking charge at Upton Park the following January.
And they were celebrating after just four minutes as Carlton Cole capitalised on hesitancy from Pablo Ibanez to put the Hammers ahead, just as he had done in the Carling Cup semi-final second leg between the two sides at the start of 2011.
Birmingham launched a remarkable fightback to turn that tie around and, after an impressive albeit not quite repeat comeback, defender David Murphy headed home an 81st-minute leveller to grab a deserved share of the spoils from what was a thoroughly entertaining encounter.