Arsenal's Premier League title charge gathered momentum as they moved two points clear at the top with a scrappy 1-0 victory over Newcastle United on Saturday as Leicester City's push faltered with a goalless home draw against Bournemouth.
Predictions that Leicester's unlikely surge to the summit would be short-lived gained further substance when they failed to break down 10-man Bournemouth and missed a penalty through Riyad Mahrez to extend their winless run to three games.
That gave Arsenal the chance to open a gap at the top and they did not miss it, although they endured a tighter than expected afternoon at home to Newcastle where defender Laurent Koscielny poached the winner after 72 minutes.
Louis van Gaal was finally given reason to smile as Manchester United ended a dismal six-game winless league streak at home to Swansea City, Wayne Rooney securing a vital 2-1 victory with his first Premier League goal since October.
Liverpool's erratic form continued when they were beaten 2-0 by West Ham United with Andy Carroll delivering the final blow to his former club with a trademark bullet header after Michail Antonio had put the hosts ahead early in the match.
If Liverpool boss Juergen Klopp was planning to keep his powder dry in the January transfer window he may be thinking again after witnessing an insipid attacking display that provoked a fiery response from the German coach.
"It's not a day for being disappointed, it's a day for being angry," he told BT Sport. "You cannot win a football match with 90 percent, you have to do everything... I don't like it."
Jermain Defoe scored twice for Sunderland whose hopes of avoiding relegation were boosted with a 3-1 win over bottom club Aston Villa, whose own plight looks increasingly bleak.
Alex Tettey scored the only goal of the game for Norwich City against Southampton, who had Victor Wanyama sent off in the second half, and Jonny Evans snatched a stoppage-time winner for West Bromwich Albion as they beat Stoke City 2-1.