Manchester United will lose control of the Premier League title race if they are beaten by Chelsea in a week's time, after Arsenal struck a major blow for their London rivals with a 1-0 victory at Emirates Stadium.
Having enjoyed a nine-point lead at one stage last week, Sir Alex Ferguson's men now hold an increasingly fragile-looking three-point advantage over Chelsea, whom they welcome to Old Trafford on May 8. Arsenal move back within six points as a result of their victory, earned without injured skipper Cesc Fabregas, whose replacement Aaron Ramsey scored the all-important winner.
The first half saw the ball belong almost exclusively to Arsenal, and they were left to rue a poor piece of officiating by the referee's assistant, who failed to spot Nemanja Vidic's blatant handball inside the area. Having been beaten by the cross, Vidic diverted the ball away from Robin van Persie's head, and arguably should have been dismissed for stopping a clear goalscoring chance.
It was Arsenal who found a breakthrough just before the hour, with Ramsey benefitting from Van Persie's wizardry inside the area. The Dutchman twisted and turned to create room for the cutback, allowing Ramsey to caress the ball inside Edwin van der Sar's far upright.
Ferguson threw on Dimitar Berbatov and Antonio Valencia in an attempt to find a crucial equaliser, but Szczesny was equal to Nani's best efforts, while Gael Clichy's late foul on Michael Owen saw penalty appeals waved away by Chris Foy.
Manchester City kept themselves firmly on course for Champions League qualification with a 2-1 victory over West Ham at Eastlands.
City were 2-0 up within the opening 15 minutes, Nigel de Jong powering home his first goal for the club and then Pablo Zabaleta guiding a shot on target beyond Robert Green which Lars Jacobsen inadvertently blasted into the net as he attempted to kick the ball away.
The Hammers hit back in the 33rd minute through Demba Ba, but it was the hosts who looked more likely to score another after the break and deservedly made off with all three points.
Liverpool stormed ahead of Tottenham into an automatic qualifying place for the Europa League on Sunday, beating Kenny Dalglish's former club Newcastle 3-0 at Anfield.
The Reds leapfrog Spurs on goal difference, having played an extra game, and the two sides still have to play each other at Anfield on May 15. Maxi Rodriguez, Dirk Kuyt and the brilliant Luis Suarez grabbed the goals on Merseyside, adding further weight to Dalglish's bid to become the permanent manager of Liverpool beyond the end of this season.
Dalglish had Andy Carroll back among his ranks on Sunday, but the towering England forward started on the bench against his former club, allowing Rodriguez to continue to operate in the hole following his hat-trick at home to Birmingham last week. Within 10 minutes that decision had paid off for the Reds, with Rodriguez's volley deflected past Tim Krul following John Flanagan's right-wing cross.
Jamie Carragher was making his 655th appearance in a red shirt, moving him alongside Ray Clemence and Emlyn Hughes into second place in Liverpool's all-time appearance list, and he ensured Pepe Reina's goal was not truly threatened until the first minute of the second half, when Joey Barton found the side-netting when arriving unmarked at the back post.
It was the Reds who continued to look the more likely to score the next goal though, and after Rodriguez almost doubled his tally when his mishit cross dropped onto Krul's bar, Liverpool pressed on the accelerator to win a penalty through the relentless running of Suarez. Mike Williamson chose to dither rather than clear, and when Suarez nipped the ball off his toes Williamson clumsily pulled his tormentor down, allowing Kuyt to notch his seventh goal in eight games.
Suarez's running, enthusiasm and overall movement was on a different level to the rest of his peers, and it was only right that he ended a personal drought of four games by claiming Liverpool's third, calmly slotting into the corner from Kuyt's pass.
Wolves remain in the relegation zone after a Michael Mancienne error saw them throw away a 1-0 advantage to draw 1-1 at Birmingham. The result leaves Wolves a point adrift of 17th-placed Blackpool with three games remaining.
Mick McCarthy's men got a flying start at St Andrew's, taking the lead inside seven minutes thanks to a Steven Fletcher penalty. Stephen Ward was the man to earn the spot-kick after a foul by Ben Foster, much to the dismay of the Birmingham players.
However, Blues responded impressively, hitting the bar through a Sebastian Larsson free-kick before the Swede eventually found the net on 27 minutes. Mancienne was the villain for Wolves, making a mess of his header back to Wayne Hennessey to allow Larsson to pounce.
Wolves were afforded a numerical advantage going into half-time, after Craig Gardner saw red for a second bookable offence following an act of simulation, but Wolves could not take advantage in the second period.