|Captain John Terry stamps his authority on the game as Chelsea dominate [GALLO/GETTY]
Chelsea marched back to the top of the English Premier League table with an emphatic 3-0 defeat of on-form Birmingham at Stamford Bridge in London.
A Frank Lampard double helped Carlo Ancelotti's side end Birmingham's 15-match unbeaten run on a night when Arsenal were held to a goalless draw at Aston Villa.
Chelsea were in control from the start, with Florent Malouda heading in a Joe Cole cross to secure a fifth minute lead.
Ricardo Carvalho then headed against the woodwork before Frank Lampard doubled the lead with a drive from 20 yards just after the half hour mark.
Birmingham could have ensured a tense finale if James McFadden had not squandered a great chance to put them back in the game.
But, as it was, Lampard claimed his second right at the death to ensure Chelsea moved back to the top with the bonus of a welcome boost to their goal difference.
Ancelotti's men are now a point ahead of Manchester United with the advantage of having played a game less than the champions.
Arsenal, who entertain United at The Emirates on Sunday, are two points adrift of United while Villa remain in seventh place, four points off Tottenham, the side currently occupying the fourth and final qualifying place for next season's Champions League.
Arsenal came closest to breaking the deadlock in an entertaining contest at Villa Park.
Andrey Arshavin forced Brad Friedel into a fine save and Tomas Rosicky's shot on the rebound cannoned off the underside of the bar but somehow stayed out.
Blackburn moved closer to mid-table safety after a 2-1 win over Lancashire neighbours Wigan, who were left just two points clear of the relegation zone.
Morten Gamst Pedersen fired Blackburn into a 20th-minute lead with a fine half-volley that was cancelled out just before the hour mark by Scotland defender Gary Caldwell's header.
Blackburn always looked marginally the better side however and they were rewarded with 14 minutes left when Nikola Kalinic headed home from a Pedersen corner.
In Wednesday's other match, Everton continued their recent improvement with a 2-0 win over a Sunderland side moving in the opposite direction.
Everton needed only seven minutes to claim the lead against opponents who have been leaking goals of late and have now won only once in their last 13 league matches.
Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini directed a cross to the near post and Tim Cahill met it with a deft header that found the far corner of Craig Gordon's net.
Cahill then turned provider for Everton's second, heading Leighton Baines's long ball into the path of Landon Donovan, who beat Craig Gordon from the edge of the area for his first goal since joining on loan from Los Angeles Galaxy earlier this month.