Raheem Sterling's hat-trick in Manchester City's 3-1 win over Watford lifted the champions four points clear at the top of the Premier League as Tottenham Hotspur's challenge faltered again with a 2-1 loss at Southampton.
On a landmark on Saturday for England attackers, Sterling took pride of place as Harry Kane scored his 200th goal for club and country in Spurs' defeat and Jamie Vardy notched his 100th and 101st for Leicester City in their 3-1 win over Fulham.
City, still on course to lift four different trophies, took advantage of Sterling being awarded a contentious goal just after halftime before he struck a minute later and completed his treble in the space of 13 minutes.
Gerard Deulofeu pulled one back within 17 seconds of being brought on as a substitute but Pep Guardiola's men never looked threatened as they moved on to 74 points from 30 games, four clear of Liverpool, who host Burnley on Sunday.
"It's a massive win," Sterling, wh has scored 15 times in the league this season, told the BBC.
England captain Kane's first-half milestone was eclipsed as third-placed Spurs squandered a lead in a game they were dominating, prompting criticism of his players by manager Mauricio Pochettino.
On an unhappy return to his old St Mary's stamping ground, Pochettino, serving the first of a two-match touchline ban, could hardly credit how his side capitulated to two late goals in five minutes from Yan Valery and James Ward-Prowse.
Now without a win in their past four league games, it left the Argentine fuming.
"It is difficult to understand why we changed so much from the first half to the second. We did not take the second half seriously," Pochettino said.
Southampton's late turnaround earned them crucial points in the fight to avoid relegation, just as third-bottom Cardiff City were able to celebrate an equally important 2-0 win over West Ham United thanks to goals from Junior Hoilett and Victor Camarasa.
Socceroos goalkeeper Mat Ryan's Brighton & Hove Albion also had reason to cheer as a dazzling individual goal from Anthony Knockaert sealed their 2-1 win at fierce rivals Crystal Palace.
Newcastle United pushed clear of the struggling pack into 13th place with an astonishing comeback from two down at halftime to beat Everton 3-2, with a goal from Salomon Rondon and a late double from Ayoze Perez, that earned them a fifth-straight league win at St James' Park.
There seems, however, no hope for Fulham under caretaker manager Scott Parker, after their defeat at Leicester, whose own new boss Brendan Rodgers was grateful for Vardy's late double.
Fulham are in 19th place on 17 points with their plight only topped by Aaron Mooy's Huddersfield Town after the Terriers remained three points further adrift after their 2-0 home defeat by Bournemouth.
Australian Associated Press