Chelsea closed the gap on Arsenal at the top of the Premier League when they beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 on Saturday and Arsenal were held to a surprising 1-1 draw by Birmingham City.
Second-placed Manchester United could go top of the table later on Saturday if they beat managerless Newcastle United at Old Trafford in an evening kickoff.
Arsenal currently lead the table with 51 points from 22 matches, followed by United with 48 from 21 and Chelsea on 47 from 22.
Chelsea, unbeaten at home by Spurs since 1990 and also unbeaten in their last 73 home league matches, took control of the game after 19 minutes when Brazilian defender Juliano Belletti scored with an unstoppable 35-metre shot.
They wrapped up the points with a second from Shaun Wright-Phillips 10 minutes from time.
Nicolas Anelka, signed from Bolton Wanderers for 15.0 million pounds ($29.35 million) on Friday, made his debut as a 60th minute substitute and nearly scored when he hit the underside of the bar in the dying minutes.
Spurs coach Juande Ramos again preferred Radek Cerny to England goalkeeper Paul Robinson in the starting line-up, although the Czech keeper was powerless to stop Belletti's blistering opener.
Across London at the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal were hopeful of making it 11 home league wins out of 12 this season against a Birmingham City team that last won at Arsenal in 1957.
Arsenal had the best possible start, going ahead with a 20th-minute penalty from Emmanuel Adebayor. Birmingham battled back for a draw thanks to Gary O'Connor's 47th minute header.
Liverpool moved back into fourth place, albeit eight points behind Chelsea, when they scraped a 1-1 draw at Middlesbrough.
Middlesbrough went ahead through George Boateng after 26 minutes with the visitors struggling to make any real impression.
The breakthrough finally came after 71 minutes when Fernando Torres embarked on a solo run 40 metres out before thundering in an unstoppable rising shot for his 17th goal of the season.
Liverpool are one of four clubs on 39 points along with Everton, Aston Villa and Manchester City.
Everton went above City after beating them 1-0 at Goodison Park where Joleon Lescott scored the only goal.
Aston Villa beat Reading 3-1 and also climbed above City on goal difference.
There was no joy for the bottom two clubs, Fulham and Derby County, who both lost again.
Fulham took an early lead at West Ham through Simon Davies but the Hammers fought back to win with goals by Dean Ashton and Anton Ferdinand.
Bottom club Derby County gave debuts to four new players including Robbie Savage who was named as captain against Wigan Athletic, but they lost 1-0 at home against manager Paul Jewell's former club.
Derby's miserable afternoon was completed by the sending off of defender Claude Davis.