Chelsea smash seven past Sunderland
Frank Lampard and Nicolas Anelka scored twice as Chelsea turned on the style to move to 48 points, one more than champions Manchester United who were made to sweat for a 3-0 home victory over Burnley.
Arsenal, third on 42, visit Bolton Wanderers on Sunday while three of the teams battling for fourth place had days to forget as Manchester City lost 2-0 at Everton, Tottenham Hotspur drew 0-0 at home to Hull City and Liverpool drew 1-1 at Stoke City.
Chelsea had won just two of their previous six league games but clicked into gear immediately against an injury-hit Sunderland side described by their manager Steve Bruce as "inept".
The points were effectively in the bag after 22 minutes following goals from Anelka, Florent Malouda and Ashley Cole.
Lampard made it 4-0 from close range before Michael Ballack headed the fifth and further goals from Lampard and Anelka completed a memorable win.
"It was a fantastic performance, maybe the best this season, and we need to continue to play," manager Carlo Ancelotti told Sky Sports News.
United struggled to break down Burnley before goals in the second half by Dimitar Berbatov, Wayne Rooney and Mame Biram Diouf ended the resistance of the visitors, playing under new manager Brian Laws for the first time.
"It was a funny game, we had so many opportunities in the last third of the field it was almost embarrassing," said United manager Alex Ferguson. "We didn't score and then from a breakaway Burnley could have scored.
"At Old Trafford you need patience to wear teams down and when we got the goal I felt it was coming."
Roberto Mancini's four-game winning run since he took over at Manchester City ended when resurgent Everton outplayed his side at Goodison Park.
A free kick by Steven Pienaar and a Louis Saha penalty put Everton two-up at halftime and only the peppered woodwork saved City from a heavier defeat.
The win took Everton's unbeaten league run to seven games and was a wake-up call for Mancini, who introduced Robinho as an early substitute and then took the 32 million pounds Brazilian off in the second half after another ineffectual performance.
While Everton are on the rise, neighbours Liverpool continue to struggle and they have now dropped 29 points this season compared to the 28 they leaked in the whole of last season when they were runners-up to United.
Sotiris Kyrgiakos's scrappy 58th-minute goal seemed likely to give them a much-needed lift after their FA Cup defeat by Reading on Wednesday but Stoke's Robert Huth equalised in injury time to leave manager Rafa Benitez frustrated again.