United extend lead; Arsenal confidence boost; Vital Wigan win
Manchester United extended their lead at the top of the Premier League to a whopping 15 points with a 2-0 win against seemingly doomed Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road.
There was also a 2-1 win for Arsenal at home to Aston Villa to ease the pressure on Arsene Wenger, while Wigan picked up an emphatic 3-0 win at Reading down at the bottom.
Elsewhere, there was a dramatic late win for Norwich at home to Everton, West Brom picked up the points against Sunderland at the Hawthorns and Fulham edged past Stoke at Craven Cottage.
QPR went into their game against Manchester United knowing they are running out of games to haul themselves off the foot of the table but they weren't expecting a Rafael thunderbolt to dash their hopes.
Ryan Giggs played in Robin van Persie down the right channel and while Julio Cesar parried the Dutchman's effort well clear of goal there was Rafael to drill the ball outrageously into the top corner.
And it was the 39-year-old Giggs who sealed the points for the Red Devils when he finished in fine style late on to heap further pressure on rivals Manchester City who play on Sunday and leave QPR cut adrift at the bottom.
Arsenal survived a scare against Aston Villa to bounce back from cup defeats to Blackburn and Bayern Munich with three Premier League points.
Wenger's side began brightly and Santi Cazorla looked to have lifted some of the gloom at the Emirates Stadium when he forced the ball past Brad Guzan at the second attempt early on.
But the Gunners were unable to extend their lead and paid the price when Andreas Weimann was allowed to run through unchallenged midway through the second half before firing a shot in from distance that Wojciech Szczesny should have saved.
Just when the inquests were beginning all over again in North London, the Gunners found an equaliser with five minutes remaining through that man Cazorla, who swept the ball home left footed to break Villa hearts.
Wigan went into their game at in-form Reading on a run of six without a win but Arouna Kone scored twice towards the end of the first half to set them on their way to a 3-0 win at the Madejski Stadium.
Kone did not know too much about the first as Maynor Figueroa's header from a corner brushed off the former Levante man and past Adam Federici in the Royals net. But the finish for his second effort just moments later was a classy one as he dinked the ball home after being given far too much space.
Reading have launched some impressive comebacks this season but any hope of doing so against the Latics was dashed shortly after the interval when Figueroa slid the ball between Federici's legs after latching onto a fine ball from Franco Di Santo.
Things got worse for Brian McDermott's men when Pavel Pogrebnyak received a straight red card for an ugly challenge on Figueroa and the result sees Wigan jump above them in the table and out of the bottom three.
At Carrow Road, Norwich grabbed a last-gasp winner to beat Everton 2-1 and snatch their first Premier League victory of 2013.
The Toffees had opened the scoring in characteristic fashion, knocking the ball up to Marouane Fellaini before Steven Pienaar found Leighton Baines down the left and his quality cross was headed home by Leon Osman.
The Canaries were never out of it and a bullet header from Kei Kamara, a January arrival on loan from Sporting Kansas, looked to have secured a valuable point when he beat Fellaini in the air.
But there was a final twist when Norwich put another ball into the box with seconds remaining and Grant Holt was there to turn in a Sebastien Bassong knockdown and nick all three points.
West Brom survived a late scare of their own at the Hawthorns but held on to win 2-1 against Sunderland with Romelu Lukaku the two-goal hero for the home side.
Lukaku had been a little unfortunate to see an earlier effort disallowed but soon found the breakthrough after Liam Ridgewell's shot was handled by Craig Gardner. The on-loan Chelsea man comfortably slotted in the resulting penalty to give the Baggies the lead at the break.
Sunderland had their moments in the second half but Albion - and Lukaku - extended the home side's lead in bizarre fashion. Titus Bramble could have cleared the ball but instead opted to pass back to Simon Mignolet and the Black Cats goalkeeper saw his attempted clearance ricochet off Lukaku and into the empty net.
Stephane Sessegnon scored after good work from substitute James McClean but despite late pressure Martin O'Neill's men could not force an equaliser and it was the home fans who went home happy, even getting a glimpse of Peter Odemwingie who came on as a late substitute.
In the early kick-off, Fulham beat Stoke 1-0 at Craven Cottage thanks to a moment of magic from Dimitar Berbatov. The Bulgarian striker came up with the bit of quality needed as he spectacularly volleyed the ball past the helpless Asmir Begovic in the Potters goal.
The visitors did have the chance to get back into the game after the break when Ashkan Dejagah was ruled to have handballed in the box but Jonathan Walters could only produce a weak penalty that Mark Schwarzer saved well down to his right. The three points move Fulham within a point Stoke and eyeing a place in the top half of the table.