Arsenal won 2-1 at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday to climb into the Champions League places at Chelsea's expense, as Aston Villa claimed a precious win in their fight to avoid relegation from the Premier League.
A brace from Tomas Rosicky gave Arsenal victory at the Hawthorns, but they allowed West Brom to come back into the game after Per Mertesacker was sent off for bringing down Shane Long in the penalty area.
James Morrison drilled the resulting penalty down the middle to reduce the arrears, but Arsenal held on to move into fourth place above Chelsea, who welcome Paolo Di Canio's Sunderland to Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Rosicky proved his worth in the early stages of the game when he cleared a header from Claudio Yacob off his own goal-line.
In the 20th minute he distinguished himself at the other end, adroitly heading Gervinho's well-struck cross from the left past home goalkeeper Ben Foster.
The Czech Republic midfielder claimed his second five minutes into the second half, ramming home at the second attempt after Foster blocked his initial attempt from the edge of the box.
Mertesacker's mistimed lunge granted West Brom a lifeline that Morrison duly grasped with 19 minutes left, but Arsene Wenger's side survived a late onslaught from the home side and thereby closed to within a point of third-place Tottenham Hotspur.
Matthew Lowton and Christian Benteke scored potentially crucial late goals to give Villa a 3-1 win at Stoke City that lifted Paul Lambert's team out of the relegation zone.
Gabriel Agbonlahor converted at the near post from Matthew Lowton's right-wing cross to give Villa a ninth-minute lead, only for Michael Kightly to equalise for Stoke in the 80th minute.
However, with time running out, Lowton launched a magnificent 35-yard shot into the top corner in the 87th minute before Benteke added a third to send Villa three points clear of the bottom three.
Reading's hopes of avoiding relegation, meanwhile, were seriously compromised after a 2-0 loss at home to manager Nigel Adkins's former club Southampton left them eight points from safety with only six games remaining.
Despite sustained early pressure from Reading, Southampton took a 34th-minute lead through Jay Rodriguez and completed victory with 18 minutes remaining when captain Adam Lallana coolly tucked away his 50th goal for the club.
Reading thought they had pulled a goal back moments later, but Saints goalkeeper Artur Boruc was adjudged not to have carried Adam Le Fondre's header over his own goal-line in what was a very marginal call.
"We were up against a good team but we're at home and we've got to win the game of football. We've not done that,
that's the reality of where we are. We've got to keep working hard"
Reading manager Nigel Adkins
Adkins joined Reading last month after Southampton sacked him in January, but his bid to steer his new club off the foot of the table is beginning to look like an impossible task, particularly as the Royals have now played at least a game more than all the teams above them.
"We needed a win today," Adkins said.
"We were up against a good team but we're at home and we've got to win the game of football. We've not done that, that's the reality of where we are. We've got to keep working hard."
Southampton, meanwhile, are seven points above the bottom three after their third consecutive victory and appear poised to secure their status among the elite for a second season.
Elsewhere, Norwich City were denied only a second win in 15 games in an entertaining 2-2 draw at home to Swansea City.