Gareth Barry’s late goal spared the blushes of Manchester City as they edged out bottom side Reading 1-0 at the Etihad Stadium.
Roberto Mancini’s side already trailed Barclays Premier League leaders Manchester United by six points in the title race and were at risk of losing more ground thanks to a dogged defensive effort from the Royals.
But Barry rose to head home in stoppage time from David Silva’s cross to trim United’s lead to three points before their clash with Swansea today.
Liverpool winger Stewart Downing had a rare day to remember at Anfield as his first league goal for the club wrapped up a comfortable 4-0 victory over Fulham.
Last week the England international admitted he may leave the club in January. But he also registered his first league assist in setting up Steven Gerrard – after Martin Skrtel’s volleyed opener – and capped his performance with a goal of his own before Luis Suarez added an injury-time fourth.
Mikel Arteta’s penalty proved enough for Arsenal to beat Wigan 1-0 and make it three league victories in a row for the first time since March.
There was little between the sides and it was the hosts who had the best chance of the first half but it was wasted by Arouna Kone. The goal came on the hour mark after Jean Beausejour was deemed to have fouled Theo Walcott in the box, much to the anger of the home fans.
Wigan manager Roberto Marinez said of the penalty: “It looked very, very soft because it’s difficult to tell if there is contact or not, and that doesn’t mean it’s a penalty, the contact has to stop you from staying on your feet.
“The player [Walcott] has got real experience and he knew a penalty would change the game and give them real hope of the three points and I thought he bought the decision.”
Steven Fletcher’s strike proved the difference as Sunderland took all three points from their trip to fellow strugglers Southampton. The Scotland international’s effort three minutes from the end of the first half proved the difference in an even encounter at St Mary’s.
Martin O’Neill’s side had lost three of four matches in December but looked dangerous from the outset, with Stephane Sessegnon forcing an exquisite save from former Black Cats goalkeeper Kelvin Davis in the opening minute.
A deflected Rickie Lambert free-kick was the closest Saints came in a first half in which Fletcher swept the opener home late on.
Everton moved back into the top four as they came from behind to beat West Ham 2-1 at Upton Park. Carlton Cole fired the Hammers into the lead, just moments after the Toffees had seen a Leon Osman effort ruled out after Victor Anichebe was adjudged to have fouled Jussi Jaaskelainen. Anichebe levelled after the break before Cole was sent off for a high challenge on Leighton Baines. Everton capitalised as Steven Pienaar grabbed the winner and the visitors held out after Darron Gibson was dismissed late on.
Norwich saw their ten-game unbeaten run come to an end as they lost 2-1 to West Brom. Robert Snodgrass’ free-kick gave the Canaries the lead, but goals from Zoltan Gera and Romelu Lukaku ensured it was the Baggies who took the three points at The Hawthorns.
Substitute Shola Ameobi gave Newcastle a valuable 1-0 win over QPR. The striker got the only goal of the game after being teed up by Sylvain Marveaux.