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 slipped 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.
– Pochettino’s ’emotional’ return –
Meanwhile, 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.
Liverpool winger Jordon Ibe came closest to breaking the deadlock with a shot that hit the crossbar after a one-two with Mario Balotelli.
It left Brendan Rodgers’s team six 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 exploited mistakes by Ryan Mason and Ben Davies to poke Southampton in front in the 29th minute, but Erik Lamela equalised just before half-time when Eric Dier’s cross hit his arm and flew in.
Pelle restored the visitors’ lead with a thumping header from substitute Shane Long’s cross 20 minutes into the second half, only for Nacer Chadli to level five minutes later after running onto a pass from Dier.
“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 trail Liverpool on goal difference and remain a point above Southampton in sixth place.
The teams finishing fifth and sixth will qualify for the Europa League, while victory for Arsenal over Aston Villa in the FA Cup final would also send the team finishing seventh into Europe’s second-tier competition.
Defending champions Manchester City can climb above Arsenal and Manchester United to second place if they win at home to Villa later on Saturday.
Arsenal host leaders Chelsea on Sunday, while United travel to Everton.