Chelsea seal controversial win, Spurs held
An offside goal for Chelsea became a cruel twist of fate for Wigan Athletic and possibly Tottenham Hotspur after one of the biggest mistakes of the Premier League season had a knock-on effect at the top and bottom on Saturday.
Chelsea grabbed a 2-1 victory over Wigan thanks to the clearly offside strike by Branislav Ivanovic and a last-gasp Juan Mata winner as they boosted their push for a top-four finish and even the third automatic Champions League berth.
Tottenham nudged up to third with a 0-0 draw at Sunderland but Arsenal can move back above them with a point at home to second-placed Manchester City on Sunday when leaders Manchester United, five points clear on 76, host Queens Park Rangers.
Wigan players surrounded the officials and manager Roberto Martinez later labelled the decision "horrific" and "disgusting" after Ivanovic's controversial 62nd-minute goal.
Mohamed Diame levelled for the visitors, who matched their more illustrious opponents for long spells, but Mata netted to send the fifth-placed hosts three points behind Spurs while Wigan were left second from bottom on goal difference.
The nature of Chelsea's last-minute winner was also harsh on Wigan, although they had overcommitted themselves in attack. Fernando Torres' wicked strike against the post hit fellow Spaniard Mata on the chest and trickled in.
"We fought until the last minute for the three points, having a lot of chances to score," said Mata, whose side reached the Champions League last four in midweek and visit Fulham on Monday before next weekend's FA Cup semifinal with Spurs.
"We got a little lucky in the last minute and the points are important for us. Chelsea never give up and today we did it."
Newcastle United, who won 2-0 at Swansea City on Friday to continue their strong form, are level with Chelsea on 56 points in sixth place. Spurs have 59 points with Arsenal on 58.
In the early kickoff, Sunderland and Spurs struggled to create clear-cut opportunities but the visitors felt aggrieved that Phil Bardsley and Michael Turner got away with handballs in the box, the first from a goalbound Emmanuel Adebayor header.
Rafael van der Vaart had two half chances for Tottenham, who have lost some of their verve since manager Harry Redknapp was made the bookmakers' favourite for the vacant England job.
Ninth-placed Sunderland, flying since manager Martin O'Neill took over in December, had their own penalty shout when the ball clipped Scott Parker on the arm but the referee was again unmoved.
Beleaguered Liverpool salvaged a point in a 1-1 draw with strugglers Aston Villa having been behind to Chris Herd's 10th-minute goal after a mistake by goalkeeper Doni, standing in for the suspended Pepe Reina.
Villa seemed set for a rare victory at Anfield but Luis Suarez equalised with an 82nd-minute header to save eighth-placed Liverpool from a seventh loss in eight league games.
Kenny Dalglish's outfit have suffered their worst run since 1954 but had a series of chances with Dutch forward Dirk Kuyt missing a sitter and Uruguayan Suarez striking the post.
Suarez was also harshly booked for diving and the hosts had several penalty appeals waved away.
"What chance have we got?" Dalglish was quoted as saying on the Liverpool website (www.liverpoolfc.tv).
"Even Suarez's booking, the guy trod on him. You can imagine the headlines tomorrow when he's been booked for diving but the guy's actually trodden on him. He's lucky he's not broke his foot.
"We just need to keep going. Maybe we're too polite. If we keep trying it'll turn."
Third-bottom Blackburn Rovers lost 3-0 at former boss Roy Hodgson's West Bromwich Albion to confirm their mini-revival is over and Bolton Wanderers are only a point above the danger zone following Clint Dempsey's brace in a 3-0 home defeat by Fulham.
Mid-table Norwich City enjoyed an entertaining 2-2 home draw with Everton while basement side Wolverhampton Wanderers lost 2-1 at Stoke City in the late game to effectively stand seven points adrift of safety because of their poor goal difference.