Chelsea humiliate Sunderland
London - Chelsea reasserted their credentials as Premier League title favourites with a superb 7-2 demolition of Sunderland on Saturday.
Manchester United, who have played a game more than the leaders, remained one point off the pace after a 3-0 win over Burnley at Old Trafford.
But it was another frustrating day for Liverpool, who conceded a last-minute equaliser at Stoke which further dents their chances of a top-four finish and a return to the Champions League next season.
Chelsea were in irresistible form at Stamford Bridge. Carlo Ancelotti's men might have been two goals in front by the time Nicolas Anelka put them ahead in the seventh minute.
Florent Malouda added a second with a solo run and shot, Ashley Cole provided an equally fine third and Frank Lampard ensured Sunderland were out for the count with only 34 minutes gone.
Germany captain Michael Ballack made it five after the restart before Boudewijn Zenden pulled one back for Sunderland.
Anelka quickly replied and Lampard also claimed a second goal of the afternoon before Darren Bent's stoppage-time strike ensured Sunderland avoided equalling their heaviest Premier League defeat.
There were no such fireworks at Old Trafford, where the Manchester United faithful had to wait until the 56th minute before Dimitar Berbatov broke Burnley's resistance.
Wayne Rooney's 16th goal of the season and substitute Mame Biram Diouf's first for the club made sure that Brian Laws's first match in charge of Burnley ended in defeat.
A second-half goal from Sotirios Kyrgiakos had looked like it would be enough to ease the pressure on Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez following the club's FA Cup exit to Championship side Reading earlier in the week.
But the defensive frailty that has hampered Liverpool throughout the campaign was exposed again in the 90th minute when Robert Huth scrambled in an equaliser after the visitors had failed to clear a corner.
Having been denied what appeared to be a clear penalty in the first half, Liverpool suffered further frustration when Dirk Kuyt headed against the post in the fifth minute of injury time.
"It feels like a defeat," admitted Kuyt. "We aren't playing the best football at the moment, but I thought we fought really hard for this result, and to concede in the last minute and even miss a great chance in the last minute is unbelievable."
The draw left Liverpool languishing in seventh place, four points adrift of fourth-placed Tottenham, who moved above Manchester City on goal difference after a goalless draw at home to Hull.
City had the chance to move back above Spurs when they faced Everton at Goodison Park later in the day.
Wigan pulled away from the relegation zone with a 2-0 win at fellow strugglers Wolves in a match both teams ended with ten men.
Wolves defender Richard Stearman received a second yellow card when he conceded a first-half penalty. Marcus Hahnemann saved Hugo Rodallega's spot-kick but Wigan made their numerical advantage count though James McCarthy on the hour.
The numbers were evened up when Wigan midfielder Hendry Thomas was ordered off shortly afterwards but Charles N'Zogbia made sure of the points for the visitors.