Arsenal made Tottenham's return to the top-four a short one as they answered Gareth Bale's late heroics against Southampton with an unconvincing win at QPR, on a day that saw Wigan close the gap at the bottom of the Premier League after a come-from-behind victory over West Brom.
Aston Villa greatly improved their own prospects of survival with a hard-fought win over Norwich, who are now looking nervously over their shoulders. So too are Newcastle after they could only draw with West Ham at Upton Park to stay locked in the battle at the bottom. Elsewhere, Manchester City were held to a drab 0-0 draw with Swansea, while Fulham were beaten at home by already-relegated Reading.
Arsenal are up to third to a nervy 1-0 win over Championship-bound QPR at Loftus Road, which came courtesy of a Theo Walcott in the opening minute. Arsene Wenger's men are two points clear of Chelsea and Tottenham with two fixtures to play, although the Blues have two games in hand on their London rivals while Spurs also have their future in their own hands.
It took 21 seconds for Arsenal to find a way past Harry Redknapp's brittle QPR side, Mikel Arteta slipping a delicious short pass into Walcott on the edge of the area, and the England man's tame finish squeezed past Rob Green.
It was the quickest goal in the Premier League this season and Walcott later hit a post as Arsenal reached half-time ahead, but the expected goal glut never arrived. Instead, QPR whipped a series of dangerous crosses across the face of goal and Loic Remy forced a fine late stop from Wojciech Szczesny, but a third clean sheet in their last four games proved decisive for Arsenal.
Bale was again the difference for Tottenham, scoring late on against his former club Southampton to give Andre Villas-Boas' men a potentially vital 1-0 win in their ongoing bid for Champions League qualification.
The Wales winger added yet another remarkable highlight to a season seemingly full of them, lashing home from 25 yards to decide a game that had looked destined to end a draw.
The result elevates Andre Villas-Boas' side up to fourth – a point ahead of arch-rivals Arsenal.
Kick-off at White Hart Lane was delayed for 30 minutes due to a traffic accident in the outlying area, but in truth it was not until the final ten minutes that the game really sparked into life. Prior to that both sides had created chances – Hugo Lloris making a few handy saves to deny the unfortunate Rickie Lambert – without looking like making the difference, before Bale popped up with his intervention.
Perhaps overlooked in the excitement, Southampton now find themselves back in the relegation mix as they sit just four points above Wigan, and having played a game more.
That was after Wigan gave themselves renewed hope of staying in the Premier League with a 3-2 victory over West Brom, as Callum McManaman grabbed a dramatic winner ten minutes from time.
The Latics were behind twice in the contest, but Arouna Kone and James McArthur both netted equalisers to set up a tense last half-hour, and it was the Latics who would eventually get the winner, McManaman turning home after the wily Shaun Maloney had wriggled free down the left.
Wigan's victory drew Norwich firmly back into the relegation mire as they were beaten 2-1 by Aston Villa at Carrow Road.
Gabriel Agbonlahor scored twice on Paul Lambert's return to his former club, clinching all three points in the 89th minute after Grant Holt's penalty had initially looked like giving the Canaries a share of the points.
Norwich are now just three points above Wigan with an identical goal difference, having played a game more. Villa, in such trouble barely a week ago, are two points better off with just two games remaining.
In East London, Newcastle held on to grab what could prove to be a crucial point in a 0-0 draw against West Ham.
In a generally drab game involving two managers with experience of managing the opposition, the goal-line clearance of Papiss Cisse's goalbound effort was perhaps the biggest moment of drama in a result that leaves Newcastle three points from 18th with two games to play.
With both sides having little to play for, Manchester City were held to a 0-0 draw against Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium.
Both sides had a handful of chances, with David Silva and Edin Dzeko both going close for the away side. The Swans had fewer chances but could have snatched matters had the Spanish duo of Michu and Pablo Hernandez had their shooting boots on.
Finally, at Craven Cottage, Fulham and Reading played out an entertaining game of the day as the Royals claimed a 4-2 win.
Already relegated to the Championship, Nigel Adkins' side grabbed the lead thanks to Hal Robson-Kanu's penalty, and the Wales international doubled his side's advantage on 62 minutes.
Bryan Ruiz then halved the deficit after slotting home from Hugo Rodallega's ball, before Adam Le Fondre slipped a shot in from a difficult angle to restore the two-goal lead. That would last barely 60 seconds, however, with Ruiz heading home an Alexander Kacaniklic cross to set up a tense final 15 minutes.
The next goal would prove crucial - and it went to the away side, with Jem Karacan firing home from just inside the box to clinch just Reading's sixth win of the season.