|Tensions run high as referee Martin Atkinson shows a red card to Sotiros Kyrgiakos [GALLO/GETTY]
Liverpool emerged the victors in a fiercely contested English Premier League Merseyside derby at Anfield when they overpowered city rivals Everton, despite the early loss of defender Sotiros Kyrgiakos.
Kyrgiakos was red-carded for a challenge on Marouane Fellaini after 34 minutes but Liverpool won the game with a Dirk Kuyt header early in the second half, keeping alive their hopes of finishing in the top four.
A battling Everton did not come close to an equaliser and also ended with 10 men after midfielder Steven Pienaar was sent off for a second yellow card in stoppage time.
Manchester United returned to the top of the table by routing bottom-place Portsmouth 5-0.
Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov each scored for United, while three Portsmouth players scored own goals to add to the debt-ridden club's woes.
United will now hope Chelsea are beaten by third-place Arsenal on Sunday so the champions retain their one-point lead.
In the late game, Spurs were held to a 0-0 draw by visiting Aston Villa allowing Liverpool to climb to fourth spot.
Hull City claimed a 2-1 win over big-spending Manchester City as the Premier League strugglers shocked Roberto Mancini's men at the KC Stadium.
Everton were unbeaten in nine league games since losing at home to Liverpool in November but the home side were also on a good run as they seek to claw their way back into the top four.
There was little in the way of good football on show from either side, however, as the game was fiery from the start with tackles flying in from both sides.
"That's what derbies are all about. That's what the fans pay good money for, to come and see passion, commitment and fight," Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard told Britain's Sky Sports.
Passions boiled over after 34 minutes when Fellaini and Kyrgiakos launched studs-up tackles at each other contesting a loose ball.
Both men could have been sent off, but it was the Greek international defender who saw red while Fellaini was carried off and took no further part in the game.
First-half stoppage time produced the two best chances of the half as Steven Gerrard hit the bar with a free kick for Liverpool and Tim Cahill sent a diving header over the bar from close range.
Liverpool made the breakthrough 10 minutes into the second half when Kuyt headed in a Gerrard corner right under the nose of Everton keeper Tim Howard.
"It was a great cross. When you're with 10 men you won't get many chances, so you have to take everything from the set pieces," Kuyt said.
Liverpool, who had conceded only one goal in their last six league games, then sat deep to protect their lead.
The temperature lifted again seven minutes from time when Gerrard caught Pienaar, leading to a mass shoving match and a couple more yellow cards.
Pienaar earned a second yellow and a sending off when his arm caught Gerrard's face, the 10th red card in 11 league games between the two teams.
|Rooney heads home the first goal for United over a deflated Pompey [GALLO/GETTY]
At Old Trafford, Wayne Rooney headed in from close range from Darren Fletcher's cross and Portsmouth defender Anthony Vanden Borre turned in Nani's attempted cross just before half-time.
After the break, Michael Carrick's shot deflected in off Richard Hughes before Dimitar Berbatov tormented the Pompey defence and fired home the fourth.
Mark Wilson became the third Pompey player to score an own goal to round off the miserable day for the visitors.
Jozy Altidore put Hull ahead with his first Premier league goal on 30 minutes before George Boateng doubled the advantage on 54 minutes with his first goal for the club since joining them 18 months ago.
Emmanuel Adebayor pulled one back for the visitors just before the hour mark but it wasn't enough to save them from their third defeat under new Italian manager Mancini to cap a miserable return to action for Wayne Bridge and blow a huge hole in his side's hopes of securing Champions League qualification.
"In the first half we didn't play very well. Hull were more aggressive and put us under pressure,'' Mancini said.
"In the second half we played very well, for me. When we brought on Patrick Vieira and Adam Johnson, the game changed. If we play like we did in the second half, we can arrive in the top four - but not if we play like we did in the first.''
While City regretted their loss, Hull celebrated a result that lifted Phil Brown's team out of the relegation zone.
Bolton were denied a desperately-needed win over Fulham when Kevin Davies's last-minute header was disallowed in a dramatic finale to an otherwise uninspiring goalless draw at the Reebok Stadium.
Burnley climbed out of the relegation zone and sent West Ham back into the bottom three with a 2-1 victory over the east London club.