Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew faces a heavy punishment after he was sent off for headbutting a Hull City player while Chelsea and Liverpool claimed convincing away wins in the Premier League on Saturday.
Andre Schuerrle scored a hat-trick as leaders Chelsea went four points clear with a 3-1 win at Fulham while Luis Suarez got his 24th league goal of the season in his 100th league match for Liverpool jumped into second spot with a 3-0 win at Southampton.
Brendan Rodgers' side leapfrogged Arsenal and Manchester City after the north London team stumbled in the scramble for the title, going down to a surprising 1-0 defeat at Stoke City who won with a second-half Jon Walters penalty.
Manchester City were without a league match as they play Sunderland in the Capital One (League) Cup final on Sunday.
The results left Chelsea top with 63 points from 28 games, followed by Liverpool on 59 ahead of Arsenal on goal difference.
Fourth-placed City, who have two matches in hand on the clubs above them, have 57 points.
While Schuerrle's Chelsea treble, and goals by Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling and a last-minute Steven Gerrard penalty for Liverpool, will make headlines for the right reasons, Newcastle manager Pardew's name will be splashed across the back pages for the wrong ones.
He was sent off by referee Kevin Friend for headbutting Hull midfielder David Meyler after 72 minutes of their 4-1 win at Hull's KC Stadium.
The incident began when Meyler tried to move Pardew, who was standing by the touchline, out of the way to take a quick throw.
Meyler was handed a yellow card for his part in the fracas which quickly escalated involving a whole host of jostling players and officials.
Pardew, who was fined 20,000 pounds ($33,500) and banned for two matches at the start of last season for shoving an assistant referee, apologised afterwards but FA Chairman Greg Dyke issued a warning to the feisty Newcastle boss.
Pardew told Sky Sports: "I will have to sit down from now on because that's two or three incidents I've been involved in.
"I didn't mean to do anything aggressive but I did move my head forward and that's enough. I wouldn't have got involved if I'd been on the other side of the line. Perhaps it will teach me to sit down.
"It's a shame because it took the gloss off a fantastic performance from us."
Dyke, speaking in Zurich after a meeting of the International Football Association Board (IFAB), told reporters he had watched the incident, adding: "I've only just seen the clip and clearly it looks serious and we will investigate it."
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was also involved in some drama of his own making on Saturday when, by his own admission, for the first time in his managerial career, he did not say a single word to his players at halftime.
Mourinho was so upset by Chelsea's first-half performance at Craven Cottage against neighbours Fulham that he said he just looked at his team and walked out of the dressing room.
They responded with what he called "probably the best second-half performance of the season," and kept up their great record at Fulham were they have lost once in 13 league games since the hosts were promoted to the Premier League in 2001.
"At halftime I told them nothing - nothing - not a word. I walked in, then I walked out. The second half was a great reaction to the worst performance of the season," Mourinho was quoted as saying by the BBC.
"The second half was one of the best performances of the season. We moved the ball around well. If I could have made 11 changes I might have done, but I could only make three - so I did nothing. Schuerrle is cold in front of the goal.
"We have four points more than Arsenal. The gap to Man City is a fake advantage. If they win their games in hand, they're top of the league. We're behind them," he added.
Schuerrle scored his three goals in 16 minutes and although John Heitinga pulled one back Fulham remain anchored to the bottom of the table four points from the safety zone.
Arsenal lost ground in the title race at Stoke where Walters converted a 76th minute penalty after visiting central defender Laurent Koscielny handled the ball.
"It's a big worry to lose a game like that, it is a massive setback," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger told the BBC.
Liverpool's title chances got a boost at St Mary's where they resisted Southampton's impressive first-half display to keep the pressure on the their rivals at the top.
Suarez opened the scoring with an opportunist strike after 16 minutes, Sterling got the second in the 58th soon after coming off the bench, and Gerrard blasted home a last-minute penalty to avenge the Saints' 1-0 win at Anfield earlier in the season, Liverpool's only home league defeat this term.
Saturday's other match ended in a 1-0 win for Everton with Chelsea loanee Romelu Lukaku scoring the only goal after being introduced as a substitute following his recent injury layoff.
The win lifted Everton into sixth place above Manchester United who are without a game this weekend.
As well as the Manchester City-Sunderland League Cup final at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, there are three other league games with Tottenham Hotspur hosting Cardiff City, Aston Villa playing Norwich City and Swansea City welcoming Crystal Palace.
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