Struggling Sunderland capitalised on the early sending-off of Brede Hangeland to beat Fulham 3-1 yesterday, earning only their second Premier League win and easing their worries at the bottom of the table.
Steven Fletcher, Carlos Cuellar and Stephane Sessegnon all scored in the second half for the visitors while Fulham were down to 10 men, with Hangeland given a straight red card for a reckless 30th-minute tackle.
Substitute Mladen Petric equalised in the 62nd minute for the mid-table home side, but they couldn't hang on at Craven Cottage, with a bad day made worse by game-ending hamstring injuries to Sweden winger Alex Kacaniklic and Costa Rica playmaker Bryan Ruiz either side of half-time.
The victory lifted Sunderland three points clear of the bottom three, with Fletcher grabbing his sixth goal of the season.
Hangeland's contentious dismissal was a game-changer, but was probably justified as the Norway defender leapt in rashly - and studs-first - on midfielder Lee Cattermole, even though his feet were on the floor when contact was made with the ball.
Questionable red card
"I thought the referee was the only person in the ground who thought it was a red card ... (although) by the letter of the law, it was a red," Fulham manager Martin Jol said.
Fulham, looking to climb to seventh with a win, had been on top by that point, but the sending-off of their captain and defensive lynchpin gave Sunderland a perfect opportunity to end their five-match winless run.
"A sending-off changes the dynamic of a game," Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill said. "We had to take advantage of that and I thought we did. I was pleased for us to score some goals, pleased to win away from home."
O'Neill's team came into the match as the lowest scoring side in the league, but has been kept out of the relegation zone by Fletcher, who opened the scoring in the 50th when he ran on to Adam Johnson's fine through-ball and slipped a low finish past Mark Schwarzer.
Petric equalised by turning in Damien Duff's cross and Fulham continued to create chances, only for Cuellar to reclaim the lead for Sunderland by heading in Johnson's left-wing corner. That goal was scored with Fulham briefly down to nine men while Petric was receiving treatment on a deep gash in his shin.
Sessegnon made the game safe when the Benin forward smashed in a swerving shot from 25 yards, his first goal of the season - although visiting goalkeeper Simon Mignolet made superb saves from Petric and Steve Sidwell late on.
It was only Sunderland's second win in their past 19 matches.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2
GOALS:- ARSENAL: MERTESACKER 24th; PODOLSKI 42nd; GIIROUD 45th; CAZORLA 60th; WALCOTT 90th. TOTTENHAM: ADEBAYOR 10th; BALE 71st.
Arsenal benefited from Emmanuel Adebayor's sending off to secure a comeback victory over Tottenham and move above them in the Barclays Premier League. Adebayor tapped Spurs in front against his old club, but was dismissed for a high and late tackle on Santi Cazorla. Per Mertesacker headed the hosts level then Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud struck before half-time. Cazorla slotted in and although Gareth Bale drilled home to pull one back, Theo Walcott sealed the points late on.
LIVERPOOL 3 WIGAN ATHLETIC 0
GOALS:- LIVERPOOL: SUAREZ 47th, 58th; JOSE ENRIQUE 65th.
Luis Suarez inspired Liverpool to a dominant second-half display which saw off bogey-team Wigan at Anfield. After a goalless first-half, top scorer Suarez broke the deadlock by hammering in Raheem Sterling's pull-back within two minutes of the restart. The Uruguayan poked in the second after a brilliant through ball from Jose Enrique, who blasted in the third. Liverpool, who had not beaten Wigan in five previous attempts, move up to 11th with their seventh game without defeat.
MANCHESTER CITY 5
ASTON VILLA 0
GOALS:- CITY: SILVA 43rd; AGUERO PEN 54th, 67th; TEVEZ PEN 74th.
Manchester City scored two penalties as they thumped Aston Villa to move top of the Premier League table for the first time this season. Villa frustrated City until David Silva broke the deadlock before half-time. But City took charge when Andreas Weimann was adjudged to have handled and Sergio Aguero scored from the spot. Carlos Tevez added another penalty after Barry Bannan's handball, Aguero made it 4-0 with a deflected shot and Tevez tapped in Samir Nasri's cross. City will be knocked off the top later on Saturday if Manchester United beat Norwich at Carrow Road.
NEWCASTLE UNITED 1
SWANSEA CITY 2
GOALS:- NEWCASTLE: BA 90th. SWANSEA: MICHU 58th; DE GUZMAN 87th.
Michu and Jonathan de Guzman were on target as Swansea secured their second away victory of the Barclays Premier League season and their first win over Newcastle in 32 years. Pablo Hernandez capitalised on home goalkeeper Tim Krul's poor clearance on 58 minutes to set up Michu's opener. With three minutes remaining, De Guzman doubled Swansea's lead from close range after Krul denied Danny Graham. Demba Ba's stoppage-time header proved little consolation for Newcastle, who lost their second successive home game.
NORWICH CITY 1
MANCHESTER UNITED 0
GOAL:- NORWICH: PILKINGTON 60th.
Norwich recorded only their second win over Manchester United in 15 league matches thanks to a brilliant headed goal from Anthony Pilkington. The ex-Huddersfield player struck 30 minutes from time when he flicked in Javier Garrido's cross from the left. United, who had been usurped at the top of the table by rivals City coming into the game, looked well below their best. Ashley Young's shot was saved by John Ruddy, who also tipped over a header from his own player Sebastien Bassong.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1
GOALS:- QPR: HOILETT 49th. SOUTHAMPTON: LAMBERT 23rd; PUNCHEON 45th; FERDINAND OG 83rd.
Southampton piled the pressure on Queens Park Rangers manager Mark Hughes, producing an outstanding performance to win deservedly at Loftus Road. Rickie Lambert and Jason Puncheon put Southampton in control at half-time and even though Junior Hoilett pulled a goal back for QPR, Anton Ferdinand's late own goal gave Adkins his first away points of the season and an outstanding victory that leaves Rangers stuck at the foot of the Barclays Premier League with just four points from 12 games.
READING 2 EVERTON 1
GOALS:- READING: LE FONDRE 51st, PEN 79th. EVERTON: NAISMITH 10th.
Adam Le Fondre earned struggling Reading their first Barclays Premier League win of the season with both goals in a battling comeback victory over Everton. The visitors dominated the first half, Steven Naismith stabbing his side ahead, before Phil Jagielka's header was cleared off the line. But Reading stormed back with Le Fondre equalising through a glancing header from Nicky Shorey's free-kick. Le Fondre won it with a late penalty after being fouled by Seamus Coleman.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION 2
GOALS:- WBA: LONG 10th, ODEMWINGIE 50th. CHELSEA: HAZARD 39th.
Chelsea went a fourth league game without a win as they were beaten by the top-flight's surprise package West Brom at The Hawthorns. The Baggies went in front through striker Shane Long's stooping header. Eden Hazard nodded Chelsea level but West Brom regained the lead after Peter Odemwingie headed in Long's cross. Chelsea were denied a spot-kick for Claudio Yacob's shove on Victor Moses and Daniel Sturridge failed to take two late chances as the Baggies held on.