Manchester United went top of the Premier League after a 4-0 romp at Sunderland on Wednesday with Arsenal and Chelsea dropping points.
Arsenal, who began the day in first place, were held 0-0 in a late kick-off at Portsmouth while third-placed Chelsea were involved in an astonishing 4-4 battle with Aston Villa.
Champions United were a class above hapless Sunderland, two goals from Louis Saha and one each by Wayne Rooney and the league's leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo allowing them to go above Arsenal with 45 points at the season's halfway stage.
The holiday fireworks were at Stamford Bridge where Gareth Barry's last-gasp penalty gave 10-man Villa a deserved share of the spoils against a Chelsea side who had Ricardo Carvalho and Ashley Cole sent off.
Chelsea have 38 points, two more than Liverpool who went fourth after a late goal from captain Steven Gerrard earned a 2-1 victory at bottom club Derby County.
Everton stayed in touch with the top four by beating Bolton Wanderers 2-0 at Goodison Park.
Chelsea, already without John Terry, Florent Malouda, Claude Makelele and Didier Drogba, face an injury crisis after midfielder Frank Lampard joined the casualty list when he limped off with a thigh problem.
Defenders Ricardo Carvalho and Ashley Cole also face suspension after being sent off after a double from Andriy Shevchenko and a goal from Alex had turned around a 2-0 deficit to put them 3-2 up.
In an action-packed final 20 minutes Martin Laursen made it 3-3, substitute Michael Ballack appeared to have sealed it for Chelsea with a sublime free kick before Cole was red-carded for handball and Barry drove in Villa's equaliser.
Villa had taken a deserved 2-0 lead with two goals from Shaun Maloney, the second a bad mistake by goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Chelsea got a lifeline on the stroke of halftime when Zat Knight bundled Ballack over in the area and was shown a red card before Shevchenko fired home the spot kick.
The Ukrainian made it 2-2 with a spectacular finish and Alex put Chelsea in control before the late twists and turns.
Villa manager Martin O'Neill was frustrated. "We were playing great and deserved to be 2-0 up," he told the BBC. "Their penalty was really dubious, it's a major point in the game... we went from being 2-0 up and suddenly it's 2-1 and we're down to 10 men."
Chelsea said they would appeal against Cole's sending off -- he appeared to head the ball down on to his arm -- but Carvalho had no complaints.
"It was never my intention to hurt Gabriel Agbonlahor with the tackle. I was going for the ball and I don't want people to think that I tried to hurt another player," the Portuguese defender said in a club statement.
United manager Alex Ferguson rested a few of his first teamers against Sunderland but United were still too good and Rooney opened the scoring after 20 minutes.
Saha's volley and a Ronaldo free kick made it 3-0 before halftime and Saha completed the rout with a late spot kick.
At the bottom Birmingham City gave themselves some breathing space with 3-0 victory over fellow strugglers Middlesbrough and Wigan Athletic moved out of the drop zone with a 1-0 defeat of inconsistent Newcastle United.
Wigan move above Fulham who were thrashed 5-1 at Tottenham Hotspur, for whom Robbie Keane and Tom Huddlestone both scored twice. West Ham United drew 1-1 with Reading.