Hull City conceded second place in the Championship to Watford after crashing to a shock 4-1 loss at Bolton.
With top side Cardiff not in action until Sunday, Steve Bruce's side had begun the day hoping to cut into the Welsh outfit's five-point advantage.
But their plans went horribly wrong as the Trotters raced into a 3-0 lead inside eight minutes at the Reebok Stadium with goals from Darren Pratley, Mark Davies and Craig Dawson.
Robbie Brady gave Hull a late glimmer of hope after 68 minutes but that was quickly killed off as Dawson grabbed his second.
Watford moved above them on goal difference after a 2-1 win over Derby at Vicarage Road.
Goals from Matej Vydra and Joel Ekstrand proved enough despite a Jamie Ward reply from the penalty spot.
Crystal Palace stayed fourth despite slipping to a late 1-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday.
Leroy Lita headed the winner for the Owls after 81 minutes.
Fifth-placed Leicester failed to make the most of their opportunity to make up ground as they were forced to settle for a 0-0 draw at Blackpool.
Chris Wood fired a penalty against the crossbar for the Foxes as the Seasiders clung on to secure a first point under new manager Paul Ince.
Brighton improved their play-off chances as a David Lopez goal earned them a 1-0 home win over Burnley.
Nottingham Forest kept themselves in contention as they beat 10-man Charlton 2-0 at The Valley.
Radoslaw Majewski and Henri Lansbury struck in the second half for Forest, now unbeaten in three games under Billy Davies, after the Addicks had Yann Kermorgant dismissed for kicking out at Greg Halford.
Bristol City moved off the bottom of the table after a remarkable 5-3 win over FA Cup quarter-finalists Barnsley.
Two goals from Jon Stead and further efforts from Liam Fontaine and Lewin Nyatanga all but put the game beyond the Yorkshire side.
Chris O'Grady pulled one back but Steven Davies added the Robins' fifth before consolation efforts from Tomasz Cywka and Jason Scotland.
Peterborough returned to the basement after a 2-0 loss at home to Birmingham. Nikola Zigic and Chris Burke were the men on target for Blues.
Information from the Press Association was used in this report.