Dimitar Berbatov scored a last-minute winner to sink Bolton and send Manchester United to the top of the Premier League for the first time this season on Saturday.
Just as it seemed Gary Megson’s side had done enough to hold out for a goalless draw, the £30 million (US$44 million) Bulgarian forward popped up in the box to meet a cross from Carlos Tevez and head in a 90th-minute winner that lifts United one point clear of Liverpool with 17 matches left to play for both clubs.
Liverpool can return to the top by winning their derby clash with Everton today, but defending champions United are now in the driving seat after a run of 10 consecutive clean sheets in the league that equals Chelsea’s top-flight record.
“Being top is not decisive at this stage, but it is always nice because it is the best place to be,” United boss Sir Alex Ferguson beamed.
There was an even more dramatic late show at Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea scored twice in the last two minutes to snatch a 2-1 win over Stoke. The Londoners had fallen behind on the hour mark after Rory Delap produced a classic striker’s chipped finish to beat Petr Cech following a pass from new signing James Beattie.
That goal came completely against the run of play and Chelsea’s pressure finally told as Juliano Belletti’s 88th-minute strike and a stoppage time winner from Frank Lampard earned Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side a morale-boosting victory.
Aston Villa consolidated their grip on fourth place thanks to an 80th-minute penalty from Gareth Barry, which enabled Martin O’Neill’s side to claim a scarcely deserved 2-1 win at Sunderland.
Sunderland had taken a first-half lead through Danny Collins’s 10th-minute header from a Carlos Edwards free-kick. That was canceled out on the hour mark when James Milner bundled Ashley Young’s low cross over the line with Sunderland’s defenders furiously protesting that the final contact had come off the winger’s arm.
Young was sent off soon afterwards for a two-footed lounge at Dean Whitehead but Villa went on to claim all three points after Paul McShane brought down Gabriel Agbonlahor right on the edge of the penalty area.
The win keeps Villa three points clear of Arsenal in the battle for Champions League qualification.
Arsenal claimed revenge for their defeat by Hull earlier in the season with a 3-1 win at the KC Stadium.
Another setback had looked on the cards for Arsene Wenger’s men when Daniel Cousin canceled out Emmanuel Adebayor’s first-half header.
But late strikes from Samir Nasri and subtitute Nicklas Bendtnr extended the Gunners’ unbeaten run in the league to seven matches.
“We found the resources to win the game in a convincing way so credit to my team,” Wenger said. “They go from strength to strength.”
Manchester City put all the speculation about a world record bid for Brazilian star Kaka to one side as they held out for over half an hour with 10 men to claim a 1-0 win over Wigan.
Argentinian defender Pablo Zabaleta put City ahead in spectacular fashion eight minutes after the break. But a minute later they found themselves battling with a man less after Richard Dunne was dismissed for kicking out at Amr Zaki as the Wigan centre forward lay on the ground. It was also a good day for Blackburn, who escaped from the relegation zone with a 3-0 win over Newcastle. Benni McCarthy — with his sixth goal in as many games — fired Rovers ahead from the spot before Jason Roberts struck twice.