Liverpool moved three points clear at the top of the Premier League after they thrashed Newcastle United 5-1 away and second-placed Chelsea were held to a 2-2 draw at neighbours Fulham on Sunday.
Arsenal ended a run of three successive draws to beat Portsmouth 1-0 at the Emirates Stadium after a late goal from William Gallas to pull level on points with Aston Villa and Manchester United, neither of whom were playing.
Liverpool lead the standings with 45 points from 20 matches, three ahead of Chelsea, followed by United, Villa and Arsenal, all on 35 points, although United have three games in hand on the leaders.
Liverpool assistant manager Sammy Lee told the BBC he was delighted with the performance, adding: "I hope we have not seen the best of Liverpool yet as we try to improve on each and every training session and each and every game.
"We are not conceited about anything we do, we do not blow our own trumpet -- but we are looking to improve between now and the end of the season."
Newcastle manager Joe Kinnear said his plans were wrecked by the absence of several key players, but told the BBC:
"You have to take your hat off to Liverpool, they were far superior to us on the day. I think Steven Gerrard was just magnificent, he was the outstanding player on the pitch and it was a very difficult afternoon for us."
At the other end of the table, West Bromwich Albion beat 10-man Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 with late goals to briefly move off the bottom until Blackburn Rovers later drew 2-2 with Manchester City, who scored twice in the last six minutes at Ewood Park.
Wigan Athletic won 1-0 at Bolton Wanderers, Everton beat Sunderland 3-0 at Goodison Park and West Ham United won at home for the first time in seven league games with a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over Stoke City who had Ricardo Fuller sent off for slapping his team mate Andy Griffin.
Liverpool's win at St James' Park was their biggest this season and followed a 3-0 demolition of Bolton on Friday.
Gerrard scored twice with Sami Hyypia, Ryan Babel and Xabi Alonso (penalty) adding the others as Liverpool maintained their drive for their first title success since 1990.
After Gerrard and Hyypia had broken early Newcastle resistance to put Liverpool 2-0 up, the home side pulled one back in stoppage time at the end of the first half when David Edgar headed in from a corner.
However Babel restored Liverpool's two-goal advantage early in the second half before Gerrard added the fourth after 66 minutes. Alonso made it 5-1 in the 76th minute after Edgar fouled David Ngog.
There was a thrilling derby at Craven Cottage where Fulham took an early lead through Clint Dempsey before two goals from Frank Lampard put Chelsea ahead with 17 minutes to play.
But under coach Roy Hodgson Fulham have become hard to beat and the home side stretched their unbeaten run to nine matches when Dempsey scored their equaliser in the dying minutes.
While Chelsea's title hopes were dented by a late goal, Arsenal's were kept alive by one with Gallas heading the only goal nine minutes from the end against Portsmouth who hit the woodwork in the first half through Peter Crouch.
Arsenal, who had drawn their last three games, held on for a victory as the visitors, now coached by former Arsenal skipper and hero Tony Adams, lost for the fourth straight league match.
7 months ago