Champions Chelsea and rivals Manchester United were buoyed by Premier League wins on Saturday but there was grim news for England's World Cup preparations after striker Michael Owen broke a bone in his foot.
The Newcastle United striker broke the fifth metatarsal of his right foot in a 2-0 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur and will be out for several months, according to club manager Graeme Souness.
Supported by Wayne Rooney, Owen is supposed to spearhead England's attack at the finals in Germany. His importance to Sven-Goran Eriksson's side, and their hopes of glory, is reflected in a strike record of 35 goals in 75 games.
As bad as it was for Souness and Eriksson, Saturday could not have ended on a better note for Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho, whose men were 2-0 winners over struggling Birmingham City.
Manchester United trounced Bolton Wanderers 4-1 in a local derby, European champions Liverpool clocked a 10th consecutive league win by edging West Bromwich Albion 1-0 and a spirited Aston Villa side held Arsenal to a 0-0 draw.
Blackburn Rovers were surprise 3-0 winners at Wigan Athletic, Harry Redknapp's Portsmouth beat Fulham 1-0, Charlton won the east London derby with West Ham 2-0 and Middlesbrough drew 0-0 with Manchester City.
Bottom club Sunderland suffered a heartbreaking 1-0 defeat after outplaying Everton and going down to Australian Tim Cahill's stoppage-time winner.
Chelsea were in imperious form at Stamford Bridge, with Argentine striker Hernan Crespo taking only one of a string of first-half chances and Dutch winger Arjen Robben firing home their second just before the break.
The win, which moved Chelsea on to 55 points, edged them closer to a second consecutive league title by maintaining a commanding 11-point lead over United. Liverpool, who have two games in hand, are third on 40 points.
Looking back over the calendar year, Mourinho told reporters: "Our 101 points in 2005 is unbelievable -- no defeats at home, lots of victories, better position than in 2004, unbelievable."
As for Chelsea's title rivals, Mourinho said: "It's very difficult for them to catch us but in football you have to believe in everything so we must play safe, safe, safe."
United made an ideal start on manager Alex Ferguson's 64th birthday when Bolton defender Bruno N'Gotty turned a Kieran Richardson cross into his own net after eight minutes at Old Trafford.
Midfielder Gary Speed equalised, but French striker Louis Saha restored United's lead and two second-half strikes by Portugal winger Cristiano Ronaldo sealed a win helped by a superb display by Rooney.
"It was an excellent performance," Ferguson told Sky Sports News. "Bolton are the type of side that if you sit back at all, they're going to give you massive problems and at moments in the game they did that."
Liverpool striker Peter Crouch, widely criticised for a previous goal drought, scored his fourth goal in five league games to keep their superb run going - despite an inspired West Brom goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak.
"Their keeper was man of the match," Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez said.
Spurs striker Mido, who will be flying out to the African Nations Cup in his native Egypt in January, made one and scored the other in their win over Newcastle at White Hart Lane.
Victory kept Martin Jol's side fourth, on 37 points, and cast Wigan three points adrift.
Arsenal, who host old foes Manchester United on Tuesday, have 33 points after tangling with a determined Villa side.
Arsenal midfielder Freddie Ljungberg hit the bar and defender Kolo Toure missed from close range in the final minutes. Czech striker Milan Baros squandered Villa's best chance, firing over with keeper Jens Lehmann at his mercy.