LONDON (AFP) - Fernandinho volleyed in a dramatic 89th-minute winner as Manchester City edged FA Cup finalists Aston Villa 3-2 on Saturday to reclaim second place in the Premier League table.
A calamitous miskick by Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan allowed Sergio Aguero to put City ahead in the third minute and Aleksandar Kolarov extended the hosts' lead with a 66th-minute free-kick.
Villa hit back through Tom Cleverley and Carlos Sanchez, both of whom punished errors by City goalkeeper Joe Hart, only for Fernandinho to claim victory with a back-post finish from Kolarov's left-wing corner.
The win left Manuel Pellegrini's side nine points below leaders Chelsea, having played two games more, and above Arsenal and Manchester United.
Arsenal, a point back with two games in hand, visit Chelsea on Sunday, while fourth-place United travel to Everton.
It was a cruel outcome for Tim Sherwood's Villa, victorious against Liverpool in last weekend's FA Cup semi-final, and left them two points above the relegation zone, having played a game more than the three teams directly below them.
Earlier, Liverpool failed to make ground on the Champions League places after drawing 0-0 at West Bromwich Albion in captain Steven Gerrard's 500th league game.
Ahead of Sunday's matches, Brendan Rodgers' team are seven points below the top four in fifth place, but they remain in pole position in the Europa League qualifying race after Tottenham Hotspur drew 2-2 at Southampton.
Graziano Pelle twice put Southampton in front at St Mary's, put Spurs hit back on both occasions, first through Erik Lamela, who appeared to score with his arm, and then via Nacer Chadli.
"I was focused on my job, but it was a very tough and emotional game for me," said Spurs head coach Mauricio Pochettino, who left Southampton last year.
"It was difficult because I still love Southampton and I have very good memories here."
Tottenham, sixth, trail Liverpool on goal difference and remain a point above Southampton.
LEICESTER, HULL STRIKE OUT
The teams finishing fifth and sixth will qualify for the Europa League, while victory for Arsenal over Villa in the FA Cup final would also send the team finishing seventh into Europe's second-tier competition.
At the other end of the table, Burnley, Queens Park Rangers and Sunderland slipped closer to the relegation trapdoor as Leicester City and Hull City recorded timely victories.
Bottom club Burnley lost 1-0 at home to Leicester in agonising circumstances, with Jamie Vardy notching a 60th-minute winner for the visitors just seconds after Burnley's Matt Taylor had hit the post with a penalty.
Vardy poked the ball over the line after Michael Duff had turned a Marc Albrighton cross towards his own goal to give Leicester a fourth successive win, which took Nigel Pearson's side out of the bottom three.
"The players have deserved the breaks they've got, through a lot of honesty, hard work and ability," said Leicester manager Pearson.
"But if people think the hard work's done, they're in for a shock."
Burnley are now five points adrift of safety having played a game more than many of the teams above them and QPR are just a point better off following a 0-0 draw at home to West Ham United.
Charlie Austin should have put QPR ahead from the penalty spot mid-way through the first half after James Collins was penalised for handball, but West Ham goalkeeper Adrian saved with his legs.
Sunderland sank into the relegation places after a 1-1 draw at Stoke City, who equalised through a powerful Charlie Adam strike after Connor Wickham had given the visitors a first-minute lead.
Hull capitalised on their rivals' slip-ups by ending a six-game winless run with a 2-0 victory at Crystal Palace, courtesy of a second-half brace from Senegalese striker Dame N'Doye.
Free-falling Newcastle United are also in danger of being sucked into the relegation scrap after losing 3-2 at home to Swansea City.
Ayoze Perez gave John Carver's side a 20th-minute lead at St James' Park, but Swansea hit back through Nelson Oliveira, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jack Cork before Siem de Jong claimed a late consolation for the hosts.
Newcastle have now lost seven consecutive league games for the first time since 1977.