Chelsea, Sunderland, West Ham earn wins: EPL
Everton, Tottenham also earn wins
Chelsea moved provisionally top of the English Premier League by beating Hull 2-0 on Saturday while Manchester United ended a sorry run of three straight defeats to lift the gloom surrounding the reigning champions.
Meanwhile, there were huge wins for Sunderland and West Ham over fellow relegation rivals at the foot of the table, leaving the battle to avoid the drop up for grabs with the bottom 11 teams separated by only six points.
Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres scored second-half goals to seal a fourth straight victory for Chelsea, which climbed above Arsenal and Manchester City in the standings ahead of their games on Monday and Sunday respectively.
United had moved to the brink of a crisis, by its high standards, after losing three games in six days to kick off 2014, but a 2-0 win over Swansea will boost the confidence among David Moyes' squad and keeps his seventh-place team in touch with the top four.
Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck scored goals in a 13-minute span at the start of the second half for United.
Everton will spend the night in fourth thanks to a 2-0 win over Norwich and Tottenham also boosted its chances of finishing in the Champions League spots by earning a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace, which slipped to last place.
That's because Sunderland, which started the day at the bottom, beat Fulham 4-1 mainly thanks to a hat trick by winger Adam Johnson. West Ham was next to last at kickoff but climbed out of the relegation zone with a 2-0 win at Cardiff, despite playing the final stages with 10 men following James Tomkins' sending-off.
Carlton Cole and Mark Noble were the scorers for West Ham, earning their under-fire manager Sam Allardyce some breathing space after a dreadful run of form and condemning Cardiff coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to a defeat in his first league match in charge.
England midfielder Adam Lallana scored Southampton's winner in a 1-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion in the day's other game.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said this week that the club wouldn't even entertain bids of 100 million pounds ($165 million) for Hazard, amid reported interest from Paris Saint-Germain, and it is easy to see why.
The Belgium winger is Chelsea's top scorer this season with nine goals and he underlined his increasing value to the Blues by ending Hull's stubborn resistance with a well-taken individual goal, twice cutting inside before delivering an emphatic finish.
Torres, whose best form appears to be returning, marked his 200th Premier League appearance with the second goal three minutes from time and it was also a good day for Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech, who earned a club-record 209th clean sheet.
"Now we're top of the league for the first time in a long time and hopefully we can stay there," Cech said.
Gareth Barry and Kevin Mirallas scored Everton's goals at Goodison Park to leave Roberto Martinez's in-form team five points behind Chelsea and Norwich without a win in six league matches.
Spurs rode their luck against Palace early on, with Jason Puncheon blazing a first-half penalty way over the bar, before Denmark playmaker Christian Eriksen — enjoying a new lease of life under recently hired manager Tim Sherwood — and Jermain Defoe scored in the second half for the hosts.
It is the start of a long goodbye for Defoe after his move to MLS side Toronto at the end of February was confirmed on Friday.
Sunderland has shown a big improvement under Gus Poyet in recent weeks and the win at Fulham was another major step forward, coming after a 2-1 victory over Man United in the League Cup semifinals on Tuesday.
Johnson scored with a free kick in the 29th minute, grabbed a second in the 69th and converted a penalty kick five minutes from the end, with Sung-Yeung Ki also scoring for the Black Cats.
Sunderland fell to next to last and was joined in the bottom three by Cardiff, which showed the size of the task Solskjaer has taken on by becoming the first team to lose to West Ham in the league since November.
Cole put West Ham ahead in the 42nd minute and the London club hung on after Tomkins was given a second yellow card in the 72nd, before Noble secured the victory on a counterattack in injury time.