Yaya Toure and Carlos Tevez kept Manchester City's title hopes alive after Frank Lampard's penalty miss cost Chelsea in their 2-0 defeat at Eastlands on Sunday.
Roberto Mancini's side were languishing 15 points behind leaders Manchester United after their rivals' win over QPR on Saturday, but they still retain a faint chance of retaining the title after Joe Hart's save from Lampard's penalty sparked City into life.
Lampard, seeking his 200th goal for his club, was presented with the perfect opportunity after 51 minutes when City goalkeeper Hart brought down Demba Ba as he attempted to round him following a Branislav Ivanovic through ball that was misjudged by Kolo Toure.
Hart escaped even a yellow, let alone red, card for the infringement and made the most of his reprieve by producing a superb save to keep out Lampard's spot kick low at the foot of his right-hand post.
Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure added to Chelsea's frustrations after 62 minutes, appearing on the end of a slick passing move and a short David Silva pass to curl the ball into the bottom corner of the goal from a dozen yards.
And with five minutes remaining, Silva and Sergio Aguero toyed with the opposition with neat passing on the edge of the area before teeing up Argentine forward Tevez, whose 18-yard shot flew into the goal.
While City can still dream of a title miracle, third placed Chelsea are now only two points clear of fifth placed Arsenal and face a battle just to qualify for next season's Champions League.
Still, despite ending a run of three league games without victory, second placed City will need a major meltdown from United to make up the vast gap at the top.
As befitting their desperate position in the title race, City started the contest with a sense of urgency, Yaya Toure testing Petr Cech in the Chelsea goal inside the opening seconds.
Silva's 14th minute corner was met by Matija Nastasic whose firm header drew an acrobatic reflex save from Cech.
Chelsea began to enjoy some possession of their own, without troubling Hart in the City goal, and Lampard, seeking his double century in goals for the club, wasted one such opening as he planted a free-kick harmlessly over from 35 yards.
Former Everton midfielder Jack Rodwell then unleashed a 25-yard shot which Cech tipped over his bar before steering a header from the resulting corner directly at the Chelsea goalkeeper.
Silva, exchanging passes with Yaya Toure early in the second half, darted down the left flank and crossed for Aguero to hook an off-balance shot just wide from 15 yards before, finally, Hart was forced into his first meaningful action after 50 minutes.
Eden Hazard was allowed time and space outside the City area to test the England international from 20 yards, with Hart comfortably smothering the shot at the foot of his post.
The penalty drama followed a minute later with Hart making a fine stop to deny Lampard's powerful low strike.
In response, Mancini brought on Tevez from the City bench and Aguero almost greeted his arrival by opening the scoring, running away from the Chelsea back line but seeing his chip not only clear Cech but the crossbar, also.
Yet the impression that Chelsea might pay for their penalty miss was underlined when Ramires failed to convert on a dangerous counter-attack and the miss proved especially costly when City took the lead seconds later thanks to Yaya Toure's superb solo effort.
Ramires almost made amends for his earlier error when, after seeing a shot saved by Hart, he clipped a follow-up effort against the bar.
But Rafael Benitez's team would never threaten again as Tevez's late goal brought the home side a comfortable cushion.
In the day's other game, Newcastle edged relegation rivals Southampton 4-2 in a topsy-turvy game at St James' Park that took Alan Pardew's side six points clear of the bottom three.
In honour of their growing French contingent, Newcastle had dubbed the day 'French Day', handing out berets to their supporters and playing the French national anthem prior to kick-off.
However, it was a Frenchman in a red shirt who broke the deadlock, as midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin converted a Rickie Lambert knockdown to give Southampton a third-minute lead.
Newcastle's reaction was swift and in the 32nd minute they went ahead thanks to two French players of their own.
Yoan Gouffran forced a save from Artur Boruc after darting into the box from the left and when the ball ran across goal, Moussa Sissoko sped in to touch it over the line.
The hosts' momentum did not abate and in the 42nd minute they went ahead with a stunning goal, as Papiss Cisse cracked home a looping half-volley from 25 yards.
Newcastle lost captain Fabricio Coloccini to injury just before half-time and saw Southampton equalise five minutes into the second half when Lambert swept home a low cross from Adam Lallana.
However, Newcastle hit back once again and took the lead for the second time in the game when Yohan Cabaye converted a 67th-minute penalty awarded for a handball by Danny Fox.
The suspense in a taut game finally dissipated in the 79th minute, when an own goal by Jos Hooiveld put Newcastle 4-2 ahead and confirmed the hosts' success.
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