|Vidic looks on as Chelsea celebrate a vital win at Old Trafford [GALLO/GETTY]
A controversial goal from Didier Drogba helped Chelsea to a crucial 2-1 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford to leapfrog the champions at the top of the English Premier League table.
Goals from Joe Cole after 20 minutes and a second from substitute Drogba in the 79th – from an offside position – put Chelsea 2-0 ahead before substitute Federico Macheda scored two minutes later to give United hope of salvaging at least a point.
The victory, inspired by an outstanding display from Florent Malouda, lifted Chelsea to 74 points, two ahead of United with both teams having five matches to play.
Arsenal secured a last-gasp 1-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers later on to go one point behind United, while Manchester City put six goals past Burnley.
Chelsea had the best of the opening half on Saturday but United, without injured striker Wayne Rooney, had the better of the second in a largely tense game with few scoring chances for either side.
United manager Alex Ferguson conceded to Sky Sports afterwards: "Chelsea are favourites now, five games left they are two points ahead and have four goals goal difference better than us.
"They are in the driving seat, no question about that.
"I am certain we will respond but we can win our next five games and not win it because Chelsea can win their next five games and win the league."
He was upset about Drogba's winner though.
"What I can't understand is that the linesman was directly in front of it, there was no-one near him – not a soul in front of him and he gets it wrong.
"In a game of this magnitude you need quality officials and we did not have them today. Poor, poor performance."
Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti said he decided to leave Drogba out of the starting line-up because he had nursed an injury, explaining: "He understood because he did not train 100 per cent during the week.
"But he did very well when he came on. He was fresh, he scored a fantastic goal, he was helped the team.
"To win here is not easy, we did a good job."
But he did not think Chelsea were now title favourites.
"There are five matches. We have to pay attention, stay focused, maintain our composure.
"It's an important victory, but nothing is decided."
Nicklas Bendtner was Arsenal's hero as he headed an injury-time winner at the Emirates Stadium to keep the Gunners' title dream alive.
It proved a good day for fans of the North London club, with neighbours Tottenham Hotspur falling to a 3-1 defeat at Sunderland that saw them relinquish the fourth Champions League spot to Manchester City when the Blues beat Burnley 6-1 in the late kick-off, having gone 3-0 up in seven minutes and five up by half time.
Hull stayed in relegation trouble with a 2-0 defeat to Stoke City, as Aston Villa came back from their 7-1 thrashing by Chelsea last week with a 1-0 win at Bolton.
Portsmouth, heading to the second-tier Championship next season, drew nil-nil at home to mid-table Blackburn Rovers.
The match at Old Trafford was the first of two titanic encounters in Manchester on Saturday with the WBA world heavyweight title fight between champion David Haye – who was presented to the crowd before kickoff – and John Ruiz taking place in the city later in the evening.
It was Chelsea who started the match, billed as the probable title-decider, with far more verve.
United looked leaden-footed and flat following their defeat to Bayern Munich in the European Champions League on Tuesday, and Chelsea's early dominance paid off when they went ahead.
Malouda powered his way through three defenders before holding off Darren Fletcher and crossing for Cole who scored with an impudent flick off his heel after 20 minutes.
United failed to lift their game for the rest of the half but they looked livelier after the break with Dimitar Berbatov leading the line as a lone front man and going close with a well-taken header after 60 minutes.
But just when United seemed likely to find an equaliser, Chelsea doubled their lead.
Drogba, who replaced Nicolas Anelka 10 minutes earlier got the goal when he blasted the ball past Edwin van der Sar, but he was clearly in an offside position when he collected the ball from Saloman Kalou.
Italian teenager Macheda set up a frantic finale when he bundled the ball in off a clearance from Chelsea keeper Petr Cech, but although Berbatov attempted a volley and a had a header saved, United could not save themselves.