A rogue beach ball left Liverpool feeling deflated at the Stadium of Light after a 1-0 defeat against in-form Sunderland burst their title hopes.
Darren Bent's fifth-minute shot struck the inflatable intruder, ironically thrown by the Liverpool fans, and was deflected past goalkeeper Pepe Reina as the Reds suffered their fourth defeat of the season.
Although the injury-hit visitors, who were without Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, might have been unfortunate on that occasion, it was the home side who largely dominated proceedings and warranted their victory.
Antonio Valencia scored his first Premier League goal for Manchester United as the champions reclaimed top spot with a 2-1 win over Bolton Wanderers at Old Trafford.
The £16 million summer signing drilled home United's second goal of the game after Bolton defender Zat Knight had put through his own net attempting to clear a Michael Owen header in the fifth minute.
Bolton winger Matthew Taylor scored with a header in the 75th minute to make for a nervy finale, but United held on for the victory.
Aston Villa exposed the defensive frailties of Carlo Ancelotti's Chelsea with two goals from set pieces as the Blues lost 2-1 at Villa Park.
Didier Drogba gave Chelsea an early lead with a dipping shot that Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel should have saved, before central defenders Richard Dunne and James Collins headed home in the 32nd and 52nd minute respectively.
"We lost the game because we had two set plays,'' Ancelotti said. "We need to be more focused on the situation."
Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe enjoyed mixed fortunes on his return to Fratton Park; he scored and was then sent off as Spurs won 2-1 at Portsmouth. The former Pompey star tapped in from 10-yards to net Tottenham's second goal of the game but was then shown the red card following a tussle with Aaron Mokoena early in the second-half.
Aruna Dindane missed an open goal for Pompey, who remain rooted to the foot of the Premier League following their fifth straight defeat at home, before former Tottenham midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng netted a consolation goal.
Arsenal came racing out of the blocks against Birmingham City at the Emirates and despite a brief fight back from the visitors secured a comfortable 3-1 victory.
Dutch striker Robin van Persie and French midfielder Abou Diaby gave the Gunners a two-goal lead after just 18 minutes, but a mistake from young goalkeeper Vito Mannone allowed Lee Bowyer to pull a goal back five minutes before half-time.
Substitute Andrei Arshavin, on for injured forward Theo Walcott, secured all three points for Arsenal with his third Premier League goal of the season.
Stoke City striker James Beattie ended his season-long goal drought with a brace as the Potters beat West Ham United 2-1 at the Britannia Stadium. Beattie opened the scoring from the penalty spot after 11 minutes and prodded home his second to restore Stoke's lead after Matthew Upson's 34th-minute header had got the Hammers back in the game.
Russian winger Diniyar Bilyaletdinov grabbed his first goal for Everton with a late equaliser as 10-man Wolverhampton Wanderers drew 1-1 at Goodison Park.
Wolves looked like they were heading for their second away win of the season when Kevin Doyle netted his third goal of the campaign for the midlanders with 15 minutes left. But Bilyaletdinov rammed home the equaliser after 88 minutes before Austrian striker Stefan Maierhofer was sent off.
Sam Allardyce saw his Blackburn side claim the local bragging rights over Burnley in the first top-flight meeting of the clubs for 43 years. It was a comfortable victory as well after an early scare when Robbie Blake made the breakthrough for Burnley after five minutes.
However the home side effectively sealed the points before half-time thanks to goals from David Dunn, Franco di Santo and Pascal Chimbonda. Substitute Chris Eagles scored a second for Burnley in stoppage time but they have now lost five successive games on the road in the Premier League this season.
Man City managed to come away from the DW Stadium with a point, as they drew 1-1 with Wigan on Sunday afternoon. Charles N'Zogbia gave the Latics the lead just before the half, but Martin Petrov levelled soon after.
The dismissal of Pablo Zabaleta for two bookable offences condemned the Blues to a difficult last 25 minutes and Hugo Rodallega thought he has profited with a close-range volley a minute from time, only for Shay Given to deny him.