Blues beat Baggies, United cruise
Chelsea eased the pressure on interim manager Rafael Benitez with a victory at home to West Brom, while Manchester United secured a comfortable win over Norwich thanks to a Shinji Kagawa hat-trick and Luis Suarez hit a hat-trick against Wigan.
Rafael Benitez risked angering Chelsea fans midweek by telling them they are "wasting time" jeering him instead of backing the team, but he gave them little reason to moan with a 1-0 triumph over West Brom at Stamford Bridge.
A solitary strike from Demba Ba lifted the Blues back above Tottenham in third, boosting their hopes of securing Champions League football.
Benitez had been forced to dispute claims of a fall-out with John Terry during the week, but the Chelsea skipper again found himself on the bench alongside Fernando Torres, who made way for Ba. It was the former Newcastle forward who scored the winner from six yards, converting easily after David Luiz nodded Oscar's centre back across goal.
It was comfortable thereafter for Chelsea, although more abuse came the way of Benitez as sections of the home crowd sang "stand up if you hate Rafa". Peter Odemwingie did threaten late on but Chelsea were worth the three points.
Manchester United need only 19 points from their remaining ten games of the season to lift the title after a routine 4-0 victory over Norwich at Old Trafford.
Ryan Giggs, who is on the cusp of his 1,000th game for club and country, was left out of the matchday squad, but United still had enough firepower, with three goals from Kagawa making the difference before Wayne Rooney completed the rout.
Ferguson ignored the temptation to rest his stars ahead of the Champions League showdown with Real Madrid, starting both Rooney and Robin van Persie against the Canaries. They had to wait until the 45th minute for a breakthrough, though, Kagawa producing a smart finish after Van Persie had guided the ball in his direction.
Norwich barely offered a threat to the league leaders and they were finished off 13 minutes from time, Kagawa finding another classy finish to a flowing move as thoughts turned to Madrid. Kagawa may well have played himself into Sir Alex Ferguson's thoughts for that European tie, completing his treble in style in the closing minutes, before Rooney dropped a shoulder and lashed home a beauty for the fourth.
Liverpool striker Luis Suarez leaped to the top of the Premier League goalscoring charts with a hat-trick in the 4-0 win over Wigan.
Suarez made it 21 for the season after Stewart Downing had opened the scoring in the second minute with a close range header, following a lovely turn and cross from Philippe Coutinho.
The Uruguayan was soon on the scoresheet as another fine ball from Coutinho saw him break free and slot home at the near post. Then a deflected free-kick gave him a brace, as Ali Al-Habsi failed to deal with the bouncing ball and watched it slip under his grasp and into the net.
Suarez's hat-trick came quickly in the second half as he was fed in by Glen Johnson to hammer the ball between Al-Habsi's legs and seal all three points. A couple of fine saves from Pepe Reina kept the clean sheet for Liverpool and moves them to within five points of 5th placed Arsenal.
Queens Park Rangers are now only four points from safety after a potentially crucial 2-1 triumph at Southampton. Harry Redknapp's side saw Loic Remy's strike cancelled out by Gaston Ramirez, but Jay Bothroyd found a priceless winner in the 77th minute.
Redknapp had his major January signing back in the starting line-up at St Mary's and it took 13 minutes for Remy to leave his mark, latching onto a diagonal ball before slamming it past Artur Boruc off the underside of the bar. However, Saints were level by the break when Julio Cesar spilled Jay Rodriguez's shot, allowing Ramirez to dink a cute finish into the visitors' net.
It appeared QPR were heading for a barely satisfactory draw, but Park Ji-Sung made inroads down the flank before finding Bothroyd, who fired new hope into Rangers' survival bid.
Everton are within six points of fourth-placed Tottenham after they saw off Reading 3-1 at Goodison Park, leaving the Royals a point adrift of safety at the bottom. Marouane Fellaini, Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas were on the scoresheet for David Moyes' men.
The Toffees started well on home soil, with Nikica Jelavic close to finding an opener, and Fellaini made the breakthrough after Seamus Coleman stood up a lovely cross for the Belgian.
Pienaar doubled Everton's lead on the hour when he drove at Ian Harte before finding the corner, and he then turned provider for Mirallas to net the third. Hal Robson-Kanu netted a consolation for the Royals, but the comeback specialists left themselves too much to do.
Swansea's homecoming party following their Capital One Cup success threatened to be spoiled by Newcastle, but Luke Moore struck ten minutes from time to claim a 1-0 win at the Liberty Stadium. The Swans moved seventh with victory, while Newcastle have further cause to look over their shoulders towards the drop zone.
Elsewhere, Sunderland, six points from safety, are yet to feel comfortable planning life in the Premier League next season after they drew 2-2 at home to Fulham. A highly controversial Dimitar Berbatov penalty - which appeared to be awarded after a change of heart by the referee - opened the scoring for the Cottagers, who doubled their lead when Sascha Riether completed a fine counter-attack.
However, another soft penalty award - this time for a nudge on Danny Graham - allowed Craig Gardner to halve the deficit before the break, and then Stephane Sessegnon's long-distance effort found its way past Mark Schwarzer for the equaliser.
Stoke suffered a 1-0 defeat to West Ham at the Britannia Stadium. Jack Collison netted the winner on the stroke of half-time for the Hammers.