Liverpool were the big movers of the day, climbing back into the top four after seeing off Hull City, while fellow title hopefuls Chelsea swatted aside Southampton on the road and Everton were held at Stoke City.
A crucial battle towards the bottom also ended all square, with Crystal Palace unable to overcome Norwich City, but Fulham offered their survival bid a welcome shot in the arm against 10-man West Ham United.
Aston Villa pushed Sunderland a little deeper into the mire with a narrow win in the North East, while West Bromwich Albion made their numerical advantage count late on against Newcastle United.
In the late kick-off, Manchester United endured another forgettable day on home soil as they were downed by Tottenham Hotspur.
Arsenal left it until two minutes from time before ensuring that they ended New Year's Day in the same position as they started it - at the Premier League summit. Cardiff City battled bravely at Emirates Stadium, but ended up leaving north London on the wrong end of a 2-0 scoreline. Potential new Bluebirds boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who was flown in to watch the game from the stands, will have been impressed by the never-say-die attitude of the Welsh outfit, showing that they have the stomach for a fight. Cardiff were, however, undone very late on as Nicklas Bendtner pounced to crash into the roof of the net after David Marshall could only parry in front of him and Theo Walcott was sent scampering into the box to carefully dink in a match-settling second.
Manchester City opened 2014 in style as they proved too strong for Swansea City in a 3-2 victory at the Liberty Stadium in Wednesday's lunchtime kick-off. It took the Blues just 14 minutes to record the first goal of the new year, with the ball breaking kindly for Fernandinho to rifle home from a corner. Wilfried Bony restored parity with a powerful header on the stroke of half-time, but City pulled out of sight around the hour mark as Yaya Toure drilled into the bottom corner and Aleksandar Kolarov netted a rare goal with his right foot. Bony lashed in a spectacular second of the game in the closing stages, but there was to be no late twist in the tale.
Chelsea remain just two points off the pace after grinding out a 3-0 win away at Southampton. The Blues bossed proceedings at St Mary's, with Fernando Torres in particular catching the eye. The Spaniard was to grab the opening goal of the game on the south coast after 60 minutes, with a speculative cross from Oscar deflecting over Saints keeper Kelvin Davis and back onto the head of the Chelsea striker off the base of the post. Oscar, who was booked for diving in rather controversial circumstances during an eventful cameo off the bench, also teed up the Blues' second - squaring for Willian on 71 minutes to take a touch to set himself and blast low into the bottom corner. The Brazilian schemer then grabbed the third himself eight minutes from time, racing through to fire in left footed.
Liverpool moved back into the UEFA Champions League spots after offering the perfect response to back-to-back defeats over the festive period. The Reds saw Luis Suarez put in another talismanic display during a 2-0 victory over Hull City, with the Uruguayan seeing an early header ruled out for offside. Liverpool were to make the breakthrough, though, on 36 minutes, with Daniel Agger rising highest to nod a Philippe Coutinho corner past a clutch of despairing defenders on the line. Suarez then enjoyed his moment in the spotlight five minutes into the second half, with his 20th league goal of the season crashed home in spectacular style from a 25-yard free-kick.
Six straight wins in all competitions suggested that the Manchester United juggernaut was clicking through the gears once more, but the Red Devils were knocked off track again by Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford. Spurs left the Theatre of Dreams with a 2-1 win and a standing above United in the top flight table - two points adrift of the top four. Tim Sherwood's decision to return Emmanuel Adebayor to the Spurs fold was rewarded again after 34 minutes, with the Togolese frontman rising high above a static Chris Smalling to loop a Christian Eriksen delivery back across David de Gea. Spurs doubled their advantage on 66 minutes, with Eriksen this time getting in front of his man - Antonio Valencia on this occasion - to meet a bundled centre from Aaron Lennon with a diving header. United responded inside 60 seconds, with Adnan Januzaj rolling in Danny Welbeck to chip over Hugo Lloris, but David Moyes was left to reflect on a sixth home defeat of the season.
Luck was not on Everton's side during their trip to Stoke City, but they snatched a 1-1 draw from the Britannia Stadium. The Toffees could have been in complete control by half-time. Kevin Mirallas twice struck the woodwork in the opening 45 minutes, with a thunderous drive cannoning off the crossbar and a superb free-kick crashing off the upright. Stoke were to make the visitors pay for their inability to get the ball over the line, with the deadlock broken four minutes after the re-start. Oussama Assaidi found himself in the right place at the right time, with the on-loan winger collecting a loose clearance to the edge of the box and returning the ball with interest from 20 yards out. Everton kept pushing, though, and their persistence was rewarded in the final minute when Leon Osman was sent tumbling inside the box by Jermaine Pennant and Leighton Baines stepped up to send Jack Butland the wrong way from the spot.
Fulham, who were hit for six at Hull City over the weekend, hauled themselves out of the bottom three with a crucial 2-1 victory over capital foes West Ham United at Craven Cottage. The Hammers took the lead on derby day, with there just seven minutes on the clock when a long clearance from Jussi Jaaskelainen fell to Mohamed Diame and he spun to fire into the back of the net. That was to be as good as it got for the visitors, though, with Steve Sidwell escaping the attentions of George McCartney from a 32nd-minute corner to nod home. Things went from bad to worse for the Hammers shortly before half-time when skipper Kevin Nolan saw red for kicking out at Fernando Amorebieta and the 10 men were unable to hold out after the break as a cross from the left was touched into the path of Dimitar Berbatov by Scott Parker and the mercurial Bulgarian could not miss with the goal gaping.
Crystal Palace slipped back into the drop zone after being held 1-1 by Norwich City. The Selhurst Park ground staff worked minor miracles to get the game on, amid dreadful conditions in south London, but the hosts were unable to reward their efforts. Tony Pulis' side were able to dominate for long periods, but had to come from behind to take something from the tie. Gary Hooper cut back for Bradley Johnson to sweep in an impressive opener off the inside of the post. Palace were then fortunate to see Marouane Chamakh stay on the field as the first half drew towards a close, after he raised his hands to Wes Hoolahan, but moments later they levelled as Leroy Fer - who was sent off late on - shoved Mile Jedinak in the box and Jason Puncheon made no mistake from 12 yards out.
Sunderland remain rooted to the foot of the table after suffering a 12th defeat of the season at the hands of Aston Villa. One goal was all that was required to settle the contest, and Gabriel Agbonlahor was the man to get it. The Black Cats shot themselves in the foot by trying to play along the edge of their own area, with Lee Cattermole left holding his head in his hands. The Sunderland midfielder saw the ball slip under his boot on 15 minutes and Agbonlahor raced in to round Vito Mannone and roll into an empty net.
One goal also separated West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United at The Hawthorns. The Baggies, who remain without a manager, snatched the spoils three minutes from time to break out of a nine-match winless run. The game had been keenly-contested until just after the hour when Mathieu Debuchy overstepped the mark and was dismissed for a reckless, two-footed lunge on Claudio Yacob. West Brom made the most of being a man up when Matej Vydra was picked out in the box and was sent sprawling by the onrushing Tim Krul. Saido Berahino was entrusted with the responsibility of converting from the spot, and he did just that as he drilled low into the bottom corner - despite Krul going the right way.