Arsenal's Premier League momentum was halted when the Gunners allowed a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Everton yesterday, while Fulham ended their losing streak by beating Aston Villa to give new manager Rene Meulensteen his first victory.
Arsenal failed to take full advantage of their main rivals' stumbles on Saturday as substitute Gerard Deulofeu levelled with a hard shot from a tight angle in the 84th minute to give Everton a deserved point.
Ahead of a crucial fortnight that will see them play against Napoli in the Champions League, Manchester City and Chelsea, Arsenal lead by five points ahead of Liverpool and Chelsea.
"Not bad to take, ideally wanted seven but at least we've got five," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said about his team's margin. "It gives a little bit of a cushion to play in a serene way against other teams."
After Chelsea lost 3-2 at Stoke and Manchester City were held 1-1 at Southampton on Saturday, Arsenal will certainly rue striker Olivier Giroud's shot that hit the crossbar in stoppage time.
Seeking their first title since 2004, the Gunners got off to a strong start this season, but some critics continue to cast doubts over their title credentials, despite their impressive combination of speed and flair.
NOT RULED OUT
"As long as we are five points ahead, you cannot rule ourselves out, even with the best desire," Wenger said. "So let's keep that cushion. It shows you that it will be a tough Premier League and the consistency in the end will be rewarded. The consistency for us is down to us to keep this attitude until the end of the season."
Everton followed up their victory at Old Trafford midweek with another impressive performance, playing with determination and a high tempo during the first half to monopolise possession.
With Ross Barkley bossing the midfield, Everton were a constant threat on the flanks during the first half, but lacked the finishing touch.
Failing to produce their usual sharp passing game, Arsenal started playing better in the closing stages of the first half and should have scored with two minutes remaining when referee Howard Webb decided to play the advantage following Gareth Barry's rough tackle on özil.
But Howard was quick off his line to deny Giroud's effort from close range. The United States goalkeeper was again decisive in the 45th minute to block Aaron Ramsey's attempt from Giroud's assist.
Arsenal played with the same intensity after the interval and went ahead after Everton wasted two good chances, as Theo Walcott headed a ball across the goal and Giroud failed to hit it, before özil fired it into the roof of the net.
Everton fought back to equalise after Romelu Lukaku failed to connect with an overhead kick and Deulofeu slotted home from 10 metres, before Giroud almost grabbed the three points with his powerful strike that hit the woodwork.
"The performance, I couldn't be happier," said Everton's manager after the club remained fifth in the standings, seven points behind Arsenal. "The only bit of criticism is you need to take your chances; in the final third we were not ruthless enough. But I am really, really pleased. The character is really strong."
Earlier, Steve Sidwell and Dimitar Berbatov scored first-half goals to give Fulham a 2-0 win over Villa to end a six-game losing streak in the league.
The result marked Meulensteen's first win as Fulham manager as his players ended Aston Villa's five-match unbeaten run.
The visitors were kept at bay from the start and were never a real threat on a sunny afternoon at Craven Cottage.
After a minute's applause for former South African President Nelson Mandela who died Thursday, Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan pushed Berbatov's header onto the bar, but was powerless when Sidwell flicked the ball from a tight angle to open the scoring in the 21st minute.
Berbatov then calmly scored from the penalty spot for his second league goal this season, after Alexander Kacaniklic was fouled by Leandro Bacuna in the box.
"I couldn't be more delighted, and the players should be delighted with themselves," Meulensteen said. "We were quality going forward in an attacking sense. It's a massive boost. Although we lost, we got the feel-good factor back against Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday, and it was about backing that up with three points today. The fans can see we're back on track."
CRYSTAL PALACE 2
CARDIFF CITY 0
GOALS:- PALACE: JEROME 6th; CHAMAKH 57th.
Manager Tony Pulis secured Crystal Palace's first back-to-back Barclays Premier League wins since 2004 as Cameron Jerome's first goal for the club gave them victory over Cardiff City.
Ex-Cardiff striker Jerome headed home seconds after Fraizer Campbell had a header saved at the other end. Marouane Chamakh's volley sealed the win before Jerome was denied a second by David Marshall's goal-line save.
WEST HAM UNITED 1
GOALS:- LIVERPOOL: DEMEL 42nd OG; SAKHO 47th; SUAREZ 81st; O'BRIEN 84th OG. WEST HAM: SKRTEL 66th OG.
Liverpool went second in the table with victory over West Ham in a match that featured three own goals plus another strike for the in-form Luis Suarez. The Reds took the lead when the ball ricocheted in off Guy Demel, before Mamadou Sakho scuffed in a second. Martin Skrtel's own goal briefly gave the Hammers hope, but Suarez's bullet header restored Liverpool's cushion. West Ham's Kevin Nolan was sent off for a poor challenge, before Suarez's strike deflected in off Joey O'Brien.
MANCHESTER UNITED 0
NEWCASTLE UNITED 1
GOAL:- NEWCASTLE: CABAYE 61st.
Manchester United slumped to their second home Barclays Premier League defeat in the space of four days as Yohan Cabaye's goal gave Newcastle a first league victory at Old Trafford since 1972.
The home side struggled to break down the Magpies, other than a flurry of chances at the start of the second half, with Patrice Evra heading against the post before the ball rebounded against Vurnon Anita's arm. Newcastle struck on the break when Cabaye fired home Moussa Sissoko's cross.
MANCHESTER CITY 1
GOAL:- SOUTHAMPTON: OSVALDO 42nd. CITY: AGUERO 10th.
Dani Osvaldo's spectacular strike gave Southampton a point their vibrant performance fully deserved against Manchester City. Sergio Aguero's early goal was the reward for an impressive City start as they looked to prove their travel troubles were over after the midweek win at West Bromwich Albion.
Southampton, however, demonstrated the energy and ability that has marked them out as one of the surprise teams of this Barclays Premier League season, and Osvaldo provided the highlight of an entertaining game just before the interval.
STOKE CITY 3 CHELSEA 2
GOALS:- STOKE: CROUCH 41st; IRELAND 50th; ASSAIDI 90th. CHELSEA: SCHURRLE 9th; 53rd.
Oussama Assaidi scored a superb late winner as Stoke City came from behind to stun Chelsea and earn just their fourth Premier League win this season. Andre Schurrle's fine low shot gave the Blues the lead, but Peter Crouch's close-range strike levelled matters.
A lovely curled effort by substitute Stephen Ireland put the Potters ahead after the break, only for Schurrle to level with a magnificent half-volley. Schurrle then hit the bar, but Assaidi's angled strike left Chelsea in third.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2
GOALS:- SUNDERLAND: JOHNSON 37th. TOTTENHAM: PAULINHO 43rd; O'SHEA 50th OG.
Sunderland remain rooted at the bottom of the Barclays Premier League table as Tottenham eased the pressure on manager Andre Villas-Boas with a gutsy win. A Hugo Lloris error allowed Adam Johnson to confidently score from eight yards to give Sunderland the lead. Paulinho poked in at the near post to level, and Spurs then went ahead thanks to John O'Shea's clumsy own goal.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION 0
NORWICH CITY 2
GOALS:- NORWICH: HOOPER 13th; FER 89th.
Gary Hooper's fifth goal of the season helped send Norwich above West Bromwich Albion in the Barclays Premier League. The striker scored in the 13th minute with a low drive from 18 yards after Leroy Fer's neat pass. Fer sealed the points when his shot beat a despairing Boaz Myhill to cap a counter attack in the 89th minute.
ClubP W D L GF GA GD Pts
Arsenal 15 11 2 2 30 11 19 35
Liverpool 15 9 3 3 34 18 16 30
Chelsea 15 9 3 3 30 17 13 30
Man City 15 9 2 4 41 15 26 29
Everton 15 7 7 1 23 14 9 28
Tot'ham15 8 3 4 15 16 -1 27
Newcastle15 8 2 5 20 21 -1 26
Southam15 6 5 4 19 14 5 23
Man U 15 6 4 5 22 19 3 22
Aston Villa 15 5 4 6 16 18 -2 19
ClubP W D L GF GA GD Pts
Swansea 14 5 3 6 20 19 1 18
Stoke City 15 4 5 6 15 20 -5 17
Hull City 14 5 2 7 12 18 -6 17
Norwich15 5 2 8 14 28 -14 17
West Brom15 3 6 6 17 21 -4 15
Cardiff C 15 3 5 7 11 22 -11 14
West Ham15 3 4 8 13 19 -6 13
Fulham15 4 1 10 14 26 -12 13
Crystal P15 4 1 10 10 22 -12 13
Sund'land 15 2 2 11 12 30 -18 8