Manchester United warmed up for their reunion with Cristiano Ronaldo by marching 12 points clear in the Premier League title race courtesy of a 2-0 home victory over Everton.
1 Man Utd 65 2 Man City 53 3 Chelsea 49 4 Tottenham 48
Even with Jose Mourinho watching on, Real Madrid seemed to be the last thing on United minds as Ryan Giggs and Robin van Persie scored the first-half goals that were enough to see off a dogged visiting side.
Giggs has now scored in a remarkable 23 successive league seasons, yet another milestone in an unparalleled career.
For Van Persie, it was the 23rd goal of a sensational debut campaign.
Yet both men were more focused on the fight to be champions for the 20th time, of which Giggs would be a factor in 13, and Van Persie, finally, one.
Earlier, Aston Villa moved out of the bottom three as second-half goals from Christian Benteke and Charles N'Zogbia earned them a 2-1 victory over West Ham at Villa Park.
17 A Villa 24 18 Reading 23 19 Wigan 21 20 QPR 17
Benteke broke the deadlock from the penalty spot with his 15th goal of the campaign and N'Zogbia made the points safe with a superb free-kick.
Ashley Westwood's late own-goal could not prevent Villa's first win in nine league games and ended a run of four successive home league defeats.
Paul Lambert's side also looked more secure in defending set-pieces than in recent games with Ciaran Clark impressive and this was a vital three points for the midland club ahead of successive matches away to Arsenal and at home to Manchester City.
But West Ham have now lost five successive away games and are in danger of being sucked towards the relegation zone.
A review of Saturday's action in the Barclays Premier League ...
Inexplicable mistakes by Joe Hart and Gareth Barry gave Manchester City's Premier League title hopes a potentially decisive blow as they lost 3-1 Southampton, who secured their first win under Mauricio Pochettino in style.
City goalkeeper Hart admitted in the build-up that anything but victory at St Mary's would all but end any their hopes of retaining the title, with leaders Manchester United already boasting a nine-point cushion.
Roberto Mancini's side simply did not look like a side in need of a victory, conceding after just seven minutes when Jason Puncheon slotted home.
Hart could have possibly done better with the shot that led to the opener, but there was no doubting his culpability for Southampton's second.
Excellent team interplay put through Rickie Lambert, whose fierce drive squirmed through the England international's grasp, allowing Steven Davis to bundle home.
Edin Dzeko reduced the deficit as half-time approached, although a two-goal lead could have been restored on the stroke of half-time had referee Martin Atkinson not waved away Jay Rodriguez's penalty appeals.
That was soon forgotten, though, as Barry passed into his own goal unchallenged to put Saints on course for a first win since Pochettino replaced Nigel Adkins at the helm.
Frank Lampard issued another timely contract reminder to Roman Abramovich as Chelsea eased the pressure on boss Rafael Benitez with a 4-1 win over Wigan at Stamford Bridge.
Lampard lashed his 198th career goal for the Blues in the 86th minute to settle his side's nerves after the visitors had briefly threatened to pile more misery upon Benitez.
Ramires put Chelsea in front in the 23rd minute and Eden Hazard returned from his ball boy suspension when he struck a low right-foot shot to increase the home side's lead after 56 minutes.
But Wigan reduced the deficit when Shaun Maloney scored from a tight angle on 58 minutes, and the Latics threatened before Lampard intervened to effectively seal the three points.
The home side gave the final score a slightly lop-sided look when late substitute Marko Marin headed his first goal for the club in injury-time.
The result lifted Chelsea back to third after Tottenham had earlier replaced them with a 2-1 victory over Newcastle at White Hart Lane.
Gareth Bale beat Tim Krul with a 25-yard free-kick to open the scoring for the Londoners and he then sealed the win with a superb break-away goal that ended with him slotting the ball between the Newcastle goalkeeper's legs.
Newcastle's goal came from Yoan Gouffran, who was later carried off on a stretcher with a serious-looking leg injury.
Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny produced some late heroics as the 10-man Gunners were forced to cling on for a 1-0 win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
Arsene Wenger's men played the last half-hour with 10 men following Carl Jenkinson's sending-off for a second bookable offence.
Santi Cazorla made the decisive breakthrough in the 35th minute with a low shot past Simon Mignolet, who had earlier saved well from Aaron Ramsey.
Theo Walcott hit the post early in the second half but Sunderland finished in style with both Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson denied late on by superb saves from Szczesny.
Rock-bottom QPR sunk closer to relegation after a dismal 4-1 defeat at Swansea.
Michu set the Swans on their way to victory with his eighth minute opener and Angel Rangel increased the home side's lead from close-range in the 18th minute.
Despite substitute Bobby Zamora briefly reducing the deficit, Pablo Hernandez restored Swansea's two-goal cushion on 50 minutes before Michu slid home his 15th league goal of the season to seal an easy win.
Robert Huth headed his first goal since April last year to send Stoke on their way to a 2-1 win over relegation-threatened Reading at the Britannia Stadium.
Huth nodded the opener in off the bar in the 67th minute and Cameron Jerome smashed home the Potters' second nine minutes from time. Adrian Mariappa grabbed a late consolation for the Royals.
Norwich stretched their winless Premier League streak to nine games after a low-key 0-0 draw with Fulham.
The result also means Martin Jol's Cottagers have won just two from their last 10.
Source: Newcastle United Mad