United edge to anniversary win
Manchester United gave Sir Alex Ferguson the victory he would have wanted above all on the day he celebrated 25 years in charge of the club, but it was not the emphatic result some might have expected as a Wes Brown own goal proved the difference in a 1-0 win against Sunderland.
It may have been a day of personal commendation for Ferguson - who saw the North Stand at Old Trafford renamed in his honour - but that did not stop him surprising once again with his starting lineup, as Wayne Rooney remained in a midfield role and Anders Lindegaard replaced David De Gea between the sticks.
United enjoyed the majority of the first-half possession but struggled to make a real impact, with Phil Jones forcing a decent save from Keiren Westwood after a speculative volley.
United then got a goal in fortuitous circumstances just before half-time, and it came through one of their former defenders. Having cleared the danger for a corner, Brown found himself nodding home from six yards out, unable to head away Nani's corner under pressure from Danny Welbeck.
The second half did not see an upturn in performance, however, with Sunderland growing in confidence as the match went on. United were perhaps fortunate to stay ahead with about 20 minutes remaining, as Lee Mason's decision to award a penalty against Nemanja Vidic was correctly overruled by his assistant. Mason believed the Serbian defender had been responsible for a handball after a cross was swung into the box, but the linesman correctly identified that Ji Dong-Won was the culprit and the decision was reversed.
The champions held on to claim one of the more unconvincing wins of Ferguson's landmark reign, although few inside Old Trafford were that worried as they commemorated the contribution of a club legend.
Manchester City maintained their five-point lead at the top of the table, though, as they won a dramatic game 3-2 at QPR.
It was the first time this season that City had gone behind in a Premier League match, but Roberto Mancini's side showed impressive patience before Yaya Toure sealed all three points late on as City re-established their five-point advantage at the top of the table.
Jay Bothroyd gave QPR a deserved lead, scoring his second goal in as many games with a powerful header from Joey Barton's cross, but Edin Dzeko outmuscled the Rangers defence to level shortly before half-time.
David Silva put City ahead with a classy finish after a delightful first touch took him into space to fire past Paddy Kenny, but QPR refused to lie down and Bothroyd's powerful header was deflected past Joe Hart by a ducking Heidar Helguson.
But Toure, who scored two goals in City's Champions League win over Villarreal in midweek, secured all three points for the leaders with 15 minutes remaining, meeting Aleksandar Kolarov's curled cross to head City to victory.
Robin van Persie was once again at the centre of matters as Arsenal continued their renaissance with an emphatic 3-0 victory over West Brom at Emirates Stadium.
Van Persie was again the man of the moment as he extended his scoring record to 29 goals in 28 league games, although his opener was one of the easier of the lot. The Dutchman was simply in the right place at the right time to sweep home on 22 minutes, after Theo Walcott's initial effort had been saved by Ben Foster.
Shortly after Van Persie turned provider to make it 2-0, cutting back a well-measured ball for an unmarked Thomas Vermaelen to fire home shortly before half-time.
Mikel Arteta was then on hand with just over 15 minutes remaining to clinch the points for the home side, once again collecting a pass from Van Persie after good work by Tomas Rosicky to curl a trademark right-foot effort into the corner. Arsene Wenger's men had further opportunities to score but ultimately settled for three goals and three points as Roy Hodgson's men saw their own late mini-revival steadfastly rebuffed by the resolute Arsenal defence.
Liverpool were left frustrated at Anfield as they were held to a 0-0 draw in an entertaining clash with Swansea.
Kenny Dalglish's side had an impressive 17 shots on goal in the first half, but the wastefulness that cost them against Norwich in their previous game seemed to have returned to haunt them as they managed to get just two of those efforts on target.
Swansea had opportunities of their own in the second half but Liverpool dominated the final few minutes of proceedings as they searched desperately for a winner - with Dirk Kuyt seeing a headed goal ruled out for offside and Luis Suarez proving wasteful from a promising free-kick.
Chelsea had a rare moment of inspiration from Branislav Ivanovic to thank as they clung on to claim an underwhelming 1-0 victory against Blackburn Rovers.
With the anti-Steve Kean protests continuing despite the club's ban on any demonstrations against the manager - a move one enterprising fan got around by attaching a banner to a plane and flying it over the ground - the two teams played out a drab affair, with Frank Lampard getting the only goal of the game as he was on hand to nod home after Ivanovic's pinpoint cross with the outside of his right-boot.
Daniel Sturridge and Grant Hanley were both guilty of wasting a number of good opportunities to get on the scoresheet for their respective sides, while Petr Cech had to push through the pain barrier after suffering a painful-looking nose injury after a clash with Ashley Cole in the opening stages.
But the Blues ultimately closed out the contest to give Andre Villas-Boas some much needed respite - while only increasing the ill-feeling towards his embattled opposite number.
In the day's early kick-off, a John Heitinga own goal and a wonderful long-range effort from Ryan Taylor were enough for Newcastle United to move temporarily into second in the table after beating Everton 2-1 at St James Park.
Jack Rodwell got a goal back for the visiting Toffees just before half-time, but it was not enough for David Moyes' side despite a frantic final few minutes. It took just 12 minutes for the buoyant Magpies to move ahead. Heitinga was the culprit after a breathtakingly slack piece of defending, as he lazily prodded Danny Simpson's low cross inside the near post with Tim Howard left stranded.
Everton had their chances to equalise - Rodwell had a smart header well saved by Tim Krul, before denying Leon Osman from Royston Drenthe's cross seconds later. Saha then leathered a shot well over the bar after breaking the offside trap, before Taylor punished the visitors for their profligacy.
It was a goal worthy of winning any game, the former Wigan defender setting up perfectly before hitting a right-footed half volley up and over the despairing Howard, before seeing it dip in off the underside of the crossbar. Perhaps sparked by the blow, Everton halved the deficit before half-time - Rodwell nipping in ahead of Danny Simpson to head home from a corner - but they were unable to get an equaliser in the second half as the 50,671 in attendance were able to celebrate a home win.
It was not all smiles for Alan Pardew, however, as both Yohan Cabaye and Sylvain Marveaux were forced off with injuries during the game. Manchester United's victory later in the day meant Newcastle dropped to third.
Aston Villa were forced to sweat as the were on the right end of a 3-2 victory against a spirited Norwich City, with Gabriel Agbonlahor and Darren Bent running riot for the hosts at Villa Park.
Anthony Pilkington scored a beautiful free-kick from just outside the box to open the scoring for the Canaries, before Bent did what he does best to prod home after Agbonlahor's surging run and cross.
Shortly after half-time, Agbonlahor was then on hand to put Alex McLeish's side ahead, taking advantage of a catastrophic back-pass from Leon Barnett to round John Ruddy and put the ball home. Bent made it 3-1 on 62 minutes.
Norwich eventually got back into the game as Grant Holt's deep cross found Steve Morison rising highest at the far post to nod home, but the Canaries were unable to get the equaliser they needed as Alex McLeish's men picked up their third win of the year.