The events of the past week have set up an exciting summer in the Premier League, but first, will Spurs leave it late on the final day? And Benitez deserves lots of credit...
Despite Gareth Bale's late winner against Southampton, victories for Arsenal and Chelsea made it a terrible weekend for Spurs. Meanwhile, the race is tightening at the bottom...
A huge victory for several reasons, with Villa coming from behind to win for the first time in the Premier League this season as they climbed out of the bottom three at Wigan's expense.
As well as the psychological boost gained from their fight-back after Nathan Baker's comical own goal, Villa's victory leaves Reading firmly in the mire ahead of away trips to Manchester United and Arsenal. It now looks too late for the Royals' survival bid to get off the ground, and they were desperately poor in Saturday's must-win match.
Paul Lambert spoke of his team's confidence after the victory and seven points from the last five fixtures provides Villa with a solid foundation to build up a run of form between now and the end of the season.
"The confidence was always there and if you look at it today, it's not as if they're a team that look as though they're fighting for their lives," said Lambert.
"We've got a lot of confidence about us at the minute and a lot of enthusiasm for the game. They're young and they've got a great hunger to go and succeed."
Of course, it's important for Villa to remember that they are fighting for their lives, but after a nightmare run of just two points in seven games over Christmas and January, Lambert has gradually injected some belief back into his young team. Christian Benteke's form has certainly helped in that respect and the striker has now scored eight goals in 11 appearances (in all competitions) in 2013 as he continues to attract interest.
Lambert still has plenty to worry about - with Villa currently possessing the worst goal difference in the Premier League - and Saturday's clash with QPR is clearly enormously important. Villa have won only three matches and scored 11 goals at home all season, but the loser of Saturday's six-pointer will be left to stew for two weeks until the next game owing to the forthcoming international break. Lambert knows that his players could be sent into another spiral of fear with a devastating defeat.
With only nine matches remaining it seems more and more likely that the relegation battle will go right to the wire and for the particularly callous amongst us, the last-day clash between Villa and Wigan at the DW Stadium is enough reason to get excited.
Back-to-back wins for the first time since their return to the top flight (for the first time since December 1995, in fact) and now a genuine chance of survival. It seems those Appletinis in Dubai were the perfect tonic for QPR's ailing season.
Although the Rs spent a ludicrous sum on transfer fees and wages in January, Harry Redknapp's wheeling and dealing to bring in Andros Townsend and Jermaine Jenas on loan from Spurs played a crucial role on Saturday as the pair popped up with two stunning strikes to secure victory against Sunderland. Indeed, considering he rarely picked either player at White Hart Lane, Jenas and Townsend have already done more for Redknapp at QPR than in the manager's three-and-a-half years at Spurs.
There is nothing 'miraculous' about QPR's shot in the arm following the fortune Tony Fernandes splurged in January, but whoever oversaw the signings of Chris Samba and Loic Remy certainly deserves some credit. Both players were excellent against Sunderland with Remy again escaping the defence to slide home his third goal from just six shots since his arrival. If only he hadn't missed three matches through injury, QPR may have been in a better position at this stage.
It's also important to note that the Rs' back-to-back victories have been secured without the help of Adel Taarabt, who was left on the bench against Southampton and failed to make the squad for the Sunderland clash after supposedly picking up a knock. Inevitably there are rumours that he may have had something to do with the Dubai drinking story in the Mirror, but equally the forward's tendency to shoot into Row Z from 40 yards may finally have taken its toll on Redknapp.
Following their deserved victory over Sunderland, QPR will travel to Villa Park in buoyant mood on Saturday after adding an attacking threat to the defensive resolve that has seen them keep four clean sheets in the last nine Premier League fixtures. Remy will be afforded chances against Villa's porous defence, but considering Benteke's form the Rs will probably need more than one goal to pick up another vital win.
The Premier League's apex predator, now sitting out on his own in the goalscoring stakes with 22 strikes from 28 matches. It took God 93 games to reach 50 goals for Liverpool, but the Devil has done it in just 91 after his landmark strike against Spurs.
Perhaps Suarez's biggest asset is that his brain currently seems to work quicker than any other player in the top flight. The way in which the striker took his goal against Spurs demonstrated the synaptic efficiency of his finishing and even the alert Hugo Lloris was made to look like an ambling pensioner by comparison.
Despite a promising first full season in the Premier League, few predicted that Suarez would suddenly burst into such prolific form this year. But the goalscorer that Liverpool were crying out for as chance after chance went begging at Anfield in 2011/12 turned out to be within the club's ranks all along. It's now vital that the Reds hold onto their star striker in the summer if they are to stand any chance of returning to the top four next season.
An incredibly fortuitous victory, gifted to Liverpool by mistakes from Kyle Walker, Jermain Defoe and Benoit Assou-Ekotto as well as Gylfi Sigurdsson's profligacy. The Icelander wasn't punished for his miss against Arsenal last week, but two wasted chances on Sunday did for Spurs as they failed to put the match to bed after half-time.
Still, Liverpool won't mind the way in which victory was earned after out-playing Spurs for much of their 2-1 defeat at White Hart Lane earlier in the season. For once the Reds weren't the team gifting goals (actually, perhaps that should be 'crucial goals') to the opposition as Brendan Rodgers' side recovered from going 2-1 down to gain their first win over one of this season's top performers.
Strangely, Liverpool have performed better on previous occasions when they have failed to secure a result, highlighting two key areas that Rodgers will want to improve on next season - namely picking up points against Champions League rivals and also gaining vital results on occasions when the team play below their capabilities. It's always important to win, but to win matches such as Sunday's fixture can actually mean something at the end of the season.
"There is a slight chance we can make Champions League football - and if we want to do that, this is the sort of game we need to win," said Luis Suarez before Sunday's clash.
But despite Suarez's faint hopes and Sunday's three points, Liverpool have surely left it too late to make a serious claim for a Champions League place this year. They still stand seven points behind Chelsea, who have a game in hand, and with only nine matches remaining it's incredibly unlikely that the Reds can make up the difference.
"I'm not thinking of European qualification. We know where we want to be and we want to be challenging at the top end but we keep looking to the next game," said Rodgers in his post-match interview, contradicting his previous focus on second place.
"We are at the business end now and this is the time to win and narrow our focus on the games and that's what we've been doing. We will just keep collecting points and see where it takes us."
In truth, Liverpool have blown an excellent opportunity this season. Considering they have such a poor record against teams in the top half of the table but still lie only seven points away from fourth reveals the extent to which they have shot themselves in the foot in one of the most open battles for the top four in years. FSG's decision not to bring in another striker in the summer is just one costly decision in a campaign in which a bigger squad could have seen Liverpool challenge for a return to the Champions League.
Indeed, the Reds are currently not far away from matching Spurs, Chelsea or Arsenal over the course of a full campaign, with Spurs' relative efficiency the main reason why they are sitting in third and Liverpool in sixth.
But the concern now for Rodgers is that the teams above Liverpool could all strengthen significantly in the summer, making it even harder for the Reds to challenge for fourth next year. Spurs will surely spend if they return to the Champions League, while Chelsea will inevitably splurge and Arsenal have the means and the motivation to invest heavily in the squad. Meanwhile, Liverpool have recently posted considerable debts which are likely to influence FSG's spending power when the transfer window re-opens.
There are plenty of encouraging signs for Liverpool at the moment, with the attacking trio of Suarez, Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge generating genuine optimism. But it has been a small step forward when a stride was needed to significantly close the gap.
Another impressive performance to cement his current status as one of Liverpool's key players. Perhaps Rodgers shouldn't have been so quick to judge certain members of his squad that have proved vital to the Reds' recovery in the second half of the season.
Another victory gained after going behind to make it three in the last three home matches. Sunday's win over Stoke should ensure a mid-table finish and allows Newcastle to focus on maintaining an impressive Europa League campaign that has slipped somewhat beneath the radar.
A crucial penalty save to prevent Southampton slipping to another demoralising defeat.
A top-nine finish in Steve Clarke's first season in charge is an outstanding achievement.
It was a bizarre decision to rule out Roland Lamah's last-minute equaliser, which left Michael Laudrup feeling rightly aggrieved.
"How on earth can you disallow a goal when the ball comes off an opponent? It's like giving an offside after a throw-in. Everybody knows you cannot be offside after a throw-in," said Laudrup.
"Equally everybody knows you can never be offside if the ball comes from an opponent. And in this case, it's not coming from one opponent it's coming from two."
It's the first time we've seen Laudrup angry, yet somehow he still managed look suave as he vented his rage.
The end of an impressive 12-match unbeaten run in a game they really should have won. It's no shame to lose to a Liverpool team in excellent form, but Spurs were thoroughly in the driving seat with half an hour to go and would surely have earned another three points had it not been for a series of dreadful errors in defence.
Andre Villas-Boas's side looked fatigued at Anfield, with Mousa Dembele and Scott Parker crabbily allowing Luis Suarez's antics to get the better of them. It would be a shame for Spurs to allow their season to collapse in the final few matches, and Villas-Boas will need to lift his players to ensure their frustration isn't carried into Thursday's Europa League clash with Internazionale.
Spurs' campaign is finely poised between success and failure at the moment, with the possibility of both a top-four finish and victory in the Europa League very much alive. The flip side to that, of course, is that they could end up with neither after coming so close. One would hope the pain of last year's collapse will drive Spurs to ensure that at least one of their aims is achieved.
Another away defeat and more excuses. The definition of insanity is continuing to have faith in Tony Pulis when he adopts the same approach over and over again expecting different results.
An embarrassing result that leaves Martin O'Neill worried about the threat of relegation as Sunderland continued their slide to stand just six points above Wigan, who have a game in hand.
"It's a tough old set of fixtures for us between now and the end of the season," said O'Neill in his post-match interview.
"QPR were buoyed by their win over Southampton last week and we had to counteract that and deal with the swell of euphoria from the crowd, which I thought we did well."
But not too well, otherwise a 1-0 lead wouldn't have turned into a 3-1 defeat. It's vital that Sunderland beat Norwich at the weekend ahead of Manchester United's visit to the Stadium of Light and trips to Chelsea and Newcastle.
The Royals have now lost 23 points from winning positions this season after wasting a precious 1-0 lead against Aston Villa on Saturday. While the result was of course disappointing, Brian McDermott will have been alarmed by just how open his side were against a Villa team they could have leapfrogged with a victory.
The next two fixtures to Manchester United and Arsenal will surely end in defeat and send Reading bottom by the time they meet Southampton on April 6. By that stage their chances of survival could be all but ended.
Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.
"Even Matt Stanger is surprised that Aston Villa have earned top spot in his Winners & Losers." I surprised myself by chosing cornflakes for breakfast today!- CulturedPeg