Paolo Di Canio's debut match as Sunderland boss ended in defeat as Chelsea returned to the top four of the Premier League with a 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge.
The build up to Di Canio's first match as successor to Martin O'Neill was overshadowed by debate over the controversial Italian's character after his 2005 statement proclaiming to be a "fascist but not a racist" and he could not prevent Sunderland's winless run extending to nine games.
Chelsea trailed at half-time to Cesar Azpilicueta's own goal, but Matt Kilgallon deflected into his own net following a surging run by substitute Fernando Torres and Branislav Ivanovic directed a David Luiz shot into the Sunderland goal to put the Blues in front after 55 minutes.
It proved to be the winner as Chelsea, who beat Manchester United on Monday and Rubin Kazan on Thursday, returned above Tottenham on goal difference and into third place.
Meanwhile, Gylfi Sigurdsson's late strike prevented Tottenham from slipping to another defeat as they had to settle for a 2-2 draw against Everton at White Hart Lane.
The Toffees looked like taking all three points from north London after Phil Jagielka and Kevin Mirallas scored following Emmanuel Adebayor's 35th second opener.
But Sigurdsson, charged with the task of playing in the hole where Gareth Bale, who missed the game through injury, has been so effective this season, salvaged a point for the hosts by scoring a crucial goal three minutes from time.
Elsewhere, Liverpool's top-six hopes suffered another crushing blow as they were held to a 0-0 draw by a dogged West Ham side.
Three weeks after that dismal defeat at Southampton, Brendan Rodgers' side once again failed to spark, skipper Steven Gerrard coming closest to a winner when his effort was cleared off the line by the outstanding James Tomkins.
But the Hammers, for whom James Collins was equally impressive, also had a claim on the spoils, with Lucas Leiva denying them a first Anfield win in 50 years when he turned away Jack Collison's header five minutes from time.
Papiss Cisse eased Newcastle's relegation fears in a 1-0 win against Fulham on a day when it appeared as if luck had deserted the United striker.
Alan Pardew's side - and Cisse especially - had previously spurned a catalogue of chances at St James' Park against a Fulham side who suffered their first defeat in six games.
But with frustration and anxiety growing, the Senegal forward finally beat Mark Schwarzer in the third minute of added-on time for his 11th goal of the season.
Wigan forward Shaun Maloney struck a free-kick four minutes into injury time to nudge QPR closer to relegation from the Barclays Premier League with a 1-1 draw.
Loic Remy appeared to have given Rangers renewed hope in their survival quest with a stunning 85th-minute strike, only for Maloney to drive home a ferocious equaliser from 20 yards just seconds from the final whistle.
It was a spectacular twist to the match and agonising for QPR who had played all but 20 minutes with only 10 men after Bobby Zamora was sent off for a moment of madness.
Arsenal strengthened their top four chances with a 2-1 victory over West Brom, but endured a nervy finish after the dismissal of Per Mertesacker with 19 minutes left.
Tomas Rosicky got both Arsenal goals, heading in the opener in the 20th minute after fine work from Gervinho and then scoring from his own rebound early in the second half.
But Mertesacker saw red after stretching to bring down Shane Long on the edge of the area, and James Morrison scored the penalty to set up a tense finish.
Norwich and Swansea shared the spoils from an incident-packed 2-2 draw at Carrow Road.
Michu had somewhat harshly had a 10th minute strike ruled out for a foul in the build-up before Norwich goalkeeper Mark Bunn was forced off with a hamstring injury, leading to a home debut off the bench for Lee Camp as first-choice John Ruddy is also injured.
Camp soon conceded when Jonathan De Guzman pulled the ball back for Michu to rifle in a 35th minute opener, but five minutes later Robert Snodgrass headed in a leveller.
Norwich completed the turnaround when Michael Turner steamed in to connect with a free-kick and make it 2-1 on the hour mark, but a close-range finish from Luke Moore earned the visitors a point.
A world-class strike from Matt Lowton helped Aston Villa to a much-needed 3-1 win over Stoke, pushing Reading closer to the Barclays Premier League trapdoor after Nigel Adkins' side lost 2-0 to his former club Southampton.
Villa moved themselves three points clear of the drop zone and 10 points clear of the bottom two with victory at the Britannia Stadium, but they needed a moment of brilliance from Lowton after seeing Gabriel Agbonlahor's early goal cancelled out 10 minutes from time.
Stoke had an early penalty claim turned down after Jonathan Walters' cross struck Nathan Baker's arm, but it was a flat performance from Tony Pulis' side and Villa capitalised in the ninth minute.
Lowton drove into the box from the right wing and picked out Agbonlahor with a low cross, but the striker still had plenty to do in turning his man to finish from close range.
Andreas Weimann then struck a post as Villa pushed for a second, but Agbonlahor was booked 10 minutes before the break for diving as he claimed a penalty when trying to go past Asmir Begovic.
Stoke came to life after the introduction of Charlie Adam and he set up fellow substitute Michael Kightly to get one back, but with the home fans starting to celebrate a point that would ease their own relegation worries, Lowton struck.
The full-back chested down a high cross and then, with two defenders approaching, lashed a 25-yard shot between them and into the top corner of the net.
Christian Benteke then broke away to slot home a late third and cap a fine day for Villa, while defeat pulls Stoke closer to the scrap at the bottom. If Wigan beat QPR, they would be just one point clear of the bottom three.
In the early kick-off, Reading dropped further into the mire of the relegation fight after a 2-0 loss to Southampton at the Madejski Stadium.
The hosts started brightly but after Adam Le Fondre missed a sitter, blazing over from close range, Jay Rodriguez continued his recent good form by bundling home a 34th minute opener.
Adkins wanted a foul as Rodriguez collided with goalkeeper Adam Federici, but only after getting the all-important touch.
Southampton then took control of the match and Adam Lallana wrapped up the points 18 minutes from time.
That result lifted Southampton seven points clear of trouble, while Reading are seven adrift of 18th-placed Wigan.
Sunday's Premier League Fixtures
Saturday's Premier League Results
Monday's Premier League Fixture
Manchester United vs Manchester City